May 14, 2009

Declaration: Oceans Should Be Included In Kyoto Successor

Representatives from over 70 nations at the World Ocean Conference in Indonesia are asking for oceans to be included on the agenda of global climate change talks aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the AFP reported.

Delegates want the issue to be included in crucial climate talks in Copenhagen in December, as an effort to reverse the impact of global warming on the oceans.

Cuts in ocean pollution, funding for sustainable development in poor countries, greater research into how climate change affects the ocean and the role oceans play in fighting climate change were just a few of the concerns addressed in the Manado Ocean Declaration on Thursday.

U.S. delegation head Mary Glackin said the declaration represents a political commitment by participating governments to address the common questions of sea level rises, ocean acidification, changing weather patterns and other climate-related phenomena.

However, some scientists criticized the declaration as being too weak to combat likely devastating sea rises and the destruction of key species since it contained no specific commitments for funding or emissions targets.

Pressure from developing countries like the United States, Canada and Australia saw the watering down of key declaration clauses that would have made stronger calls for the inclusion of oceans in a post-Kyoto framework and the provision of funding for poor countries, delegates said.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a scientist at Australia's University of Queensland, told AFP the outcome of the talks was "disappointingly weak" given the severity of the problem.

"If their commitment is weakening then this is all going to unravel," he added.

Reefs in Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle could disappear by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically cut, according to a report issued this week by environment group WWF.

Hoegh-Guldberg, the lead author of the report, warned that the collapse of the region, said to be the ocean's richest ecosystem and home to half the world's coral, would destroy food and livelihoods for over 100 million people and trigger mass migration to cities and neighboring countries.

The five-day conference is being billed as the first time nations have gathered to discuss the link between oceans and climate change effects.

"Nations need to work harder to conserve oceans and fight climate change," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She told delegates in a recorded statement that changes to the oceans threaten many nations' ability to provide for their families and make a better life for their children.

The future of the oceans is a "life and death issue" for humanity, warned Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He stated that the world must understand that we can only survive the 21st century if we are "united in caring for and preserving our oceans".

The declaration is significant, according to Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who said climate talk officials should not underestimate how important it is to have such a significant number of countries sign the document.

"This is an important declaration and it will enable strong and positive and constructive actions to be taken," he said.

However, the head of a bloc representing small island nations likely to be effected the most by rising sea levels felt the agreement was only a small step in long negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Grenada's ambassador to the UN and Alliance of Small Island States chairwoman Dessima Williams said she doesn't think it's adequate.

"I think the pieces of the solution are being laid and that is important at this juncture," she stated.


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