Larry Luxner writes about the Organization of American States’ international discussion on global ocean policy this week, which focused on dangers to coral reefs, pollution and the effects of global warming. The 67th OAS Policy Roundtable—“Our Shared Treasure: Oceans and Climate Change”—was held in Washington, DC and co-hosted by Monaco, which was marking its fifth anniversary as an official observer at the OAS. The article includes remarks by leading figures concerned with climate change, including OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez, formerly Belize’s envoy to the United States, who spoke about global warming, pollution and invasive species increasingly threaten the health of these ecosystems, and the rapid loss of mangroves and coral reefs, especially in the Caribbean and Central America. Here are excerpts:
The oceans and climate change event, attended by about 150 people, included a video message from Monaco’s Prince Albert II; remarks by OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez and Dr. Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence from Spain; and a panel discussion of global ocean policy by six government and private-sector officials. “The oceans cover 70 percent of the surface of our planet, yet we are only beginning to understand the goods and services the oceans provide in terms of economic and environmental benefits,” said Mendez, formerly Belize’s envoy to the United States. “Conservation management has become an urgent cause for concern, as global warming, pollution and invasive species increasingly threaten the health of these ecosystems.”
It might seem strange that the Principality of Monaco, a fabulously wealthy and densely populated microstate whose 36,000 people are crammed into two square kilometers along the French Riviera, would host an Americas-focused discussion on ocean health. But the country and its popular monarch, Prince Albert II, have earned a reputation for helping preserve biodiversity, fight deforestation and promote renewable energy in less developed nations. “Monaco has had a long legacy of environmental stewardship, even before ocean science and climate change were making headlines,” said Maguy Maccario Doyle, Monaco’s ambassador to the United States. “This OAS roundtable is the first ever to be dedicated to the subject of oceans and climate change.”
Oceans and climate change ahead of COP21
The Washington event came a little over a month before the United Nations-sponsored COP21 climate talks in Paris. To date, some 150 countries have submitted plans on limiting their greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, when current commitments on those emissions expire. According to published reports, the new commitments cover about 90 percent of the global economy. Yet even if followed through, they would still lead to global warming of about 2.7 degrees C, which scientists say is too high to avoid catastrophic and irreversible warming and sea-level rise.
OAS Assistant Secretary General Mendez warned that mangroves and coral reefs are rapidly disappearing, especially in the Caribbean and Central America. “Oceans absorb 30 percent of carbon emissions produced by humans, buffering the effects of global warming,” he said. “My country, Belize, has an internationally-acclaimed barrier reef system, providing direct benefits to the people of Belize. These coral reefs are the rain forests of the sea. But in 1997, 1998, 2005 and 2015, we saw coral bleaching events that were devastating.” [. . .]
Mendez praised Monaco’s efforts and that of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation — a charity that’s been in the forefront of environmental activism from Chile to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. Sala, who helped inspire the vast Seamounts Marine Management Area surrounding Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, called the foundation “essential in the fight to enable future generations to continue living on our planet.” [. . .]
For full article, see http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/10/28/oas-launches-effort-to-save-oceans-from-ravages-of-climate-change