It’s sad to think that a warmer world may be a world without Emperor penguins. These majestic animals need the sea ice for food and the ice is melting.
Antarctica is at the frontline of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. It’s the coldest, windiest, and most remote continent on earth, but its waters are home to a wealth of marine life. Maintaining the pristine state of the deep waters of Antarctica is vital not just for the wonderful wildlife that lives there, but also for the future of our planet.
There’s no time to waste - the reports about the state of the ocean are getting more and more worrying. The IPCC said in their latest report on the ocean and the cryosphere that human-caused climate change is undermining the ocean’s ability to sustain itself and it is facing potentially catastrophic consequences from climate change if we don’t protect it.
It’s time for business, civil society, government and science to come together and find new momentum. Our Ocean, an annual event started in 2014 by former Secretary of State John Kerry, is taking place in Norway this week, which will help forge new partnerships in the fight to protect the ocean and give leaders a chance to step up.
We’ve all got a part to play. The Virgin Group has pledged to reach net zero by 2050 and we’re doing all we can to get there as quickly as possible. We’re taking a multi-pronged approach, from reducing our airline emissions, toinvestments in renewable energy, and projects with our foundation Virgin Unite, the B Team, and the Carbon War Room/Rocky Mountain Institute. These organisations are exploring, supporting, and growing energy efficiency alternatives and low carbon operations that shift us off fossil fuels; and are focusing on protecting and conserving ocean health.
I’m also proud to support Ocean Unite, who are campaigning to protect at least 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030 and working with insurance leaders to build coastal resilience. We are also supporting the efforts of Antarctica2020 toprotect at least seven million km² of the Southern Ocean by 2020, the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica.
The body responsible for the conservation of Antarctica ocean waters is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). They are also meeting over the next week in Hobart, Australia. Its 25 member countries and the European Union need to agree by consensus on several proposals to protect large marine areas in the Southern Ocean. Marine protected areas will help give the region and its incredible wildlife the best chance to build resilience and adapt to our fast-changing climate and help preserve healthy fish stocks into the future.
Formal treaty negotiations are also underway at the United Nations throughout 2020, to bring much needed protection to marine life in our international waters. This is the first time in over 25 years that world governments have gathered to negotiate a treaty related to the ocean and the first to address biodiversity in the high seas. We have the opportunity to put into place protections for half the planet and to turn the tide on climate and overfishing impacts on the ocean.