There Is No Planet B

At this week’s UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world’s oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved — but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.”

The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives — whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.

Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 1.9 billion to 836 million. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities.

This attention comes not a moment too soon. More than 75 percent of the earth’s surface has been neglected, and we live with the result — floating garbage patches, browning coral reefs, overfished waters with rising temperatures, habitat loss and extreme-weather events. The recent WWF Living Blue Planet Report provides data confirming this bleak picture: for example, marine vertebrates declined by 49% between 1970 and 2012.

One of the targets included in SDG 14 aims to increase economic benefits to small island states — the countries that did the hard work to get the oceans on the agenda in the first place. They depend on the ocean for food security, and their very existence is in peril because of climate change. They have already seen firsthand the effects of rising —> Read More