The ocean covers approximately 70% of Earth’s surface, and marine ecosystems and species do not align with political boundaries. Ocean health is an issue at a global scale and requires transboundary solutions. As such, in recent years, governments and organizations across the globe have come together to identify priorities and establish global targets.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a multilateral treaty written by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to develop strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, currently includes 196 parties. This includes all UN member states, except the United States, and the Cook Islands, Niue, and the State of Palestine.
At the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP), held in October 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, the COP adopted a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for 2011-2020, which included the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. These 20 targets, organised under five strategic goals, seek to ensure that “By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.” These goals form the base of an overarching framework on biodiversity for the entire United Nations system and all other partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development.
Aichi Target 11 stresses the value of healthy oceans and the need to conserve ecosystems in protected areas:
“By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.”
Two years later, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were created at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, and they were subsequently adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. The SDGs serve as a universal call to action among the international development community to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity by addressing the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. They are the blueprint to achieve a more sustainable, safer, and more prosperous future for all.
The UN Development Agency (UNDP) supports countries in achieving the SDGs by focusing on systems, root causes and connections between challenges to build solutions.
Aichi Targets are directly related to and integral to the success of the SDGs because they ensure action on maintaining and restoring natural resources and ecosystem services, which are critical for food, livelihoods, and other necessities for survival. The Aichi Targets and SDGs are mutually supportive and reinforcing.
SDG 14 to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” essentially reaffirms the Aichi Target 11 in SDG sub-target 14.5:
“By 2020, conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information.”
As an SDG, this target places greater emphasis on the economic and social context of conservation measures to aid global development, while including less detail about what ecosystems or locations to protect. Regardless of whether we focus on human-centric or nature-centric outcomes, it is clear that restoring and conserving healthy oceans and marine biodiversity is critical to sustaining our planet for future generations. Moving forward, there is consensus among the scientific community that more rigorous post-2020 goals are necessary to truly safeguard biodiversity.
Now is the time to act.
Marine Conservation Institute works to improve marine protection by advocating for stronger ocean protections, tracking conservation progress in the Marine Protection Atlas, and strengthening marine protections through Blue Parks. We are working to save the ocean for all of us and future generations.
Each and every one of us can make a difference.