Five key steps to being good ancestors
One of Ocean Unite’s amazing Network leaders, Lewis Pugh, in a recent talk called on those listening to ‘become good ancestors’ – to think about intergenerational justice so that we can leave a healthier planet to our descendants.
Lewis and I are both South Africans. We were lucky enough to vote for Nelson Mandela, founder of The Elders, to be President; and to experience the wonderous disbelief and exhilaration of real change happening in our country against all odds, when Madiba (Nelson Mandela’s clan name) walked to freedom in 1991.
His oft-quoted words ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done,” are a mantra. Whenever anyone says that a vision is too big or a task too challenging, I know that by working collaboratively, thinking strategically, resisting the pull of the mundane, and having a bit of fun, we can achieve the seemingly impossible.
That is why Ocean Unite has adopted a #StateOfHope when it comes to the planet’s shared challenges, and particularly when it comes to those facing our ocean. The ocean is home to almost 80% of all life on our planet. It is also our biggest carbon sink and the generator behind most of our weather and two-thirds of the oxygen that we all need to breathe, live and thrive.
As Mary Robinson said, “If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that humanity can only thrive when all global citizens work with common purpose.” Working together, we can change mindsets in politics, finance, business, and civil society.
Many key decisions on nature and the climate have been delayed due to the pandemic. While we lost a year for ambitious environmental action – a year that our planet and ocean can ill afford – we gained a year (perhaps two) in which to drive greater unity and ambition.
2021 presents renewed opportunities to deliver significant ocean protection gains on the scale that our ocean urgently needs. Everyone should adopt a state of hope for the ocean and then join in the hard work of making it happen. Why? Because time is short, action is critical, and inaction is not an option.
Everyone should adopt a state of hope for the ocean and then join in the hard work of making it happen.
Knowing this, ocean advocacy groups, indigenous peoples, businesses, small-scale fishers, philanthropists and fish workers from around the world came together to develop and release a ‘blue call to action’ for the international community in 2020, to #RiseUp4TheOcean and put it on a pathway to recovery. We are all (now almost 500 groups) joined in common purpose, pressing all nations to come together to significantly make a difference in 2021/22. The five actions that must be taken in the next 12 months are:
First, at the World Trade Organisation, countries are meeting this week to secure an agreement that puts an end to harmful fisheries subsidies. Governments have been talking about it for 20 years. Funds currently allocated to harmful subsidies must be redirected into investments that address the climate and biodiversity crises, including into marine protected areas (MPAs) and Nature-based Solutions that build resilient and adaptive coastlines and communities.
Second, all countries must support adoption of a “30x30” target at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to follow the science and strongly protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. More than 60 countries have joined a “high ambition coalition” committed to this target as a way to achieve meaningful action in a global deal for nature to protect biodiversity and build resilience to change. The rest must join, too.
Third, we need to finalise the adoption of an effective UN high seas biodiversity treaty – another negotiation that has gone on for far too long and must now be finalised, adopted, and enter into the force. The treaty must mandate fully protected high seas MPAs and strengthen management of human activities outside these areas.
Fourth, we are just two country votes away (yes Russia and China, you are holding things up) from the designation of three new gigantic MPAs in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. Establishing these areas will build on the global legacy of protecting Antarctica’s Ross Sea in 2016 (still the largest MPA in the world) and contribute to constructing an effective network of protection in a region on the frontline of climate change. This will also be a milestone towards achieving 30x30.
Finally, we need forthright multilateral leadership, real commitments and most importantly, actions from the public and private sector to mobilize the trillions of dollars of investment needed to ensure that we meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree target.
We are hopeful that 2021/22 will be a more positive year for our planet. Building forward with the determination that Mary Robinson has called for, in combination with Madiba’s belief in the need for ‘kindness and real accommodation,’ can deliver the bold decisions needed to engineer decisive action for our ocean and our planet. We can be good ancestors but we must act together now. That is our #StateOfHope.
Watch The Elders’ State of Hope talks from 12 July - join the Elders live online on 16 July (3pm London / 10am New York) - and take part in the discussion via #StateOfHope and StateOfHope.live