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REPORT – Oceans and Sustainable Development Goals: Co-Benefits, Climate Change and Social Equity

A healthy ocean will benefit global sustainable development in a number of ways, finds a new report published today by the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program. With climate change and social inequity addressed, restoring the ocean will help alleviate poverty, provide livelihoods, and improve the health of millions around the world.

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“The challenges—both environmental and socioeconomic—that confront our oceans have reached a critical level,” said Yoshitaka Ota, Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program Director of Policy. “This report demonstrates how ocean sustainability holds the key not only to our future prosperity but also for our survival from a comprehensive science-based perspective.”

Developed in preparation for the UN World Ocean Conference, June 5 to 9, this is the first comprehensive report on Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water. The goal outlines seven targets agreed upon by the international community as key to the issues plaguing our oceans – from eliminating subsidies to minimizing acidification, ending overfishing to creating marine reserves.

“If fish stocks recover and are effectively managed, fisheries are more likely to provide sustainable livelihoods and food, and be more resilient to climate change” said William Cheung, Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program Director of Science. “Sustainable fisheries can help reduce poverty, limit hunger, and contribute to decent work and sustained economic growth by providing employment opportunities and productive fish stocks.”

The Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program highlighted linkages between the ocean goal and the other 16 Sustainable Development Goals, developed by the UN in 2015. The report focuses on the challenges of climate change and social equity concerns in achieving ocean sustainability.

“Climate change and social equity issues go hand in hand. The countries that are projected to be the hardest hit are tropical countries, which are mostly developing,” said Gerald Singh, Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program Senior Fellow at UBC. “Sea levels are rising and fish are moving to different locations. But populations are also growing and moving towards coasts. Reducing inequalities is at the heart of sustainable development.”

The co-benefits of achieving the ocean goal on the other sustainable development goals are wide reaching and not immediately apparent.

“The results may seem surprising, but a healthy ocean can contribute to achieving gender equality,” said Ota. “Fisheries activities are quite gendered — women typically do unrecognized and unrewarded work. Capturing social contexts will be the key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals without leaving anyone behind.”

“A healthy ocean can also mean the difference between malnourishment and a steady supply of high quality protein for vulnerable communities,” said Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program Manager. “The oceans are connected to our lives in many ways. Restoring the oceans isn’t just an environmentalist’s dream but is vital for employment, well being, livelihoods, and health around the world.”

View a visualization of the SDG co-benefits. (Navigate with space bar and numbers keys)

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About the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program
The Nereus Program, a collaboration between the Nippon Foundation and the University of British Columbia, has engaged in innovative, interdisciplinary ocean research since its inception in 2011. The program is currently a global partnership of sixteen leading marine science institutes with the aim of undertaking research that advances our comprehensive understandings of the global ocean systems across the natural and social sciences, from oceanography and marine ecology to fisheries economics and impacts on coastal communities. Visit nereusprogram.org for more information.

For further information or interview requests, please contact:
Lindsay Lafreniere
Communications Officer, Nereus Program
The University of British Columbia
l.lafreniere@oceans.ubc.ca

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