Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Goal 14: Life below water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
More than 70% of earth’s surface is covered by oceans.

Oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the earth’s surface and are central to life on earth. They are a rich source of food and valuable minerals, a vast waterway for international commerce and movement of people, and for many, a giant recreation and cultural heritage space. Today more than two thirds of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of coastlines. Oceans act as the lungs of the earth, together with rain forests. It is estimated that the ocean’s phytoplankton produce over half the oxygen that humans and all other land animals breathe. Oceans are also a CO2 sink, absorbing vast amounts of this greenhouse gas (GHG) and acting as a buffer against global warming14.1 and climate change. Unfortunately over the past decades, ocean degradation has grown, resulting in an erosion of marine biodiversity, habitats and species and endangering marine ecosystems on which humans depend heavily. The sources of these threats include overfishing and destructive fishing, overharvesting of maritime resources, pollution and waste disposal, oil spills and climate change.

The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.Blaise Pascal

Restoring the health and resilience of our oceans is thus a global priority. A global response started with the Millennium Development Goals. Millennium Development Goal 7 on environmental sustainability focused primarily on life on land, although target 7.b aimed at protecting land and marine ecosystems. Agenda 2030 and specifically Goal 14 takes a broader perspective of sustainably using and managing oceans, maritime resources and related ecosystems for sustainable development. It outlines an ambitious set of targets to address the impact of pollution and land-based activities; protect marine ecosystems; reduce acidification; regulate harvesting and fishing to restore fish stocks; introduce special and differential treatment for developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs)The category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) was officially established in 1971 by the UN General Assembly with a view to attracting special international support for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the UN family.
in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on fishing subsidies; improve sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism, especially for small island developing States (SIDS)SIDS were recognized as a distinct group of developing countries facing specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities at the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (3-14 June 1992).
and LDCs; give access to small-scale artisanal fishermen and women to marine resources and markets; and improve scientific knowledge to advance ocean health. Agenda 2030, therefore, provides further impetus to the mandates for clean, heathy, productive and resilient oceans and related marine resources that were promulgated in outcomes of major summits and conferences, including: The Future We Want from the Rio+20 outcome, the Samoa Pathway for SIDS, the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 will require robust international cooperation and coordination if its objectives to protect oceans and preserve fish and other marine resources are to be achieved. The current oceans and fisheries governance universe is characterized by a myriad of international and regulatory agreements, often implemented in a disjointed manner by a variety of agencies. This multi-agency and multilayer treaty system needs to be streamlined and implemented to ensure more effective ocean and fisheries management. In respect of fish and fish trade, Goal 14 is a catalyst for governments to take actions to implement more effectively existing treaties and soft law instruments. These include the United Nations Fish Stock Agreement (1995); the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (1) Compliance Agreement (1993), (2) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995), (3) International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, and (4) Port State Measures Agreement (2009), not yet in force; and relevant United Nations General Assembly resolutions (UN General Assembly, 2013, 2014).

Ocean trade

90 000 commercial ships have transported 9.8 billion tons of merchandise in 2014.

The oceans provide vast waterways that carry the bulk of goods imported and exported around the world. Those goods are transported by a merchant fleet that in 2014 comprised almost 90,000 commercial ships, with a deadweight tonnage of 1.75 million, of which 13 per cent were container ships, 26 per cent oil tankers and 43 per cent bulk carriers.

In 2014, approximately 9.8 billion tons of merchandise were transported by sea compared with 6.2 billion tons in 2000 - an increase of 57 per cent. Of those 9.8 billion tons, 2.8 billion tons, or 29 per cent, were crude oil and petroleum goods. In the same year, some 684 million 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers were shipped, a 32 per cent increase compared with 2008.

Figure 14.1 shows the dramatic increase in maritime cargo traffic, in particular since the turn of the century. The figure also shows that the growth in the total cargo volumes has been driven by the growth in dry cargoCargo which is of solid, dry material. It is not liquid or gas, and generally the term excludes cargo requiring special temperature controls.

Figure 14.1. World seaborne trade by cargo type, 1970-2014 (Million metric tons) Download data
Figure 14.1: Line chart
Source: UNCTADstat

There are clearly environmental costs to such growth. In 2012, CO2 emissions from international shipping were estimated at 2.2 per cent of global CO2 emissions (International Maritime Organization, 2014). While the contribution of international shipping to global carbon emissions may be relatively low when assessed per unit of cargo and distance travelled, these emissions are, however, likely to grow if left unchecked. Forecast scenarios for the medium term suggest that international shipping carbon emissions could increase 50-250 per cent by 2050, depending on economic growth and global energy demand (UNCTAD, 2015). Equally, international freight, including maritime transport, is projected to more than quadruple by 2050, with associated CO2 emissions generated by all modes engaged in international trade between 2010 and 2050 growing by a factor of 3.9 (OECD, 2015). Continued dependence on fossil fuels and related technologies by maritime transport will perpetuate such transport patterns.