Governments urge the Commission to act on oceans

EU ministers have called on the European Commission to prepare new laws against the damaging impacts of climate change on the planet’s oceans, seas and coastal areas.

Increasing temperatures, acidification, loss of oxygen and sea level rise are among the most urgent threats the new legislation should address to respond to the ‘wake-up call’ of the latest IPCC report on the oceans and cryosphere, they said in Council of the EU conclusions published on Tuesday.

Action is needed “to reduce other anthropogenic pressures on the oceans, such as pollution by nutrients, hazardous substances, organic matter and plastic litter, as well as action to restore and conserve marine ecosystems, including nature-based solutions”, they added.

The Council also called for a sustainable ‘blue economy’ committed to marine conservation, ending overfishing subsidies, scrapping emissions from maritime transport and quadrupling Europe’s offshore renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Speaking at an event on sustainable oceans in the European Parliament on Tuesday, Tiago Pitta, chief executive of the green group Oceano Azul Foundation, also urged policymakers to draw up a strategy for reducing ocean pollution. “We cannot use the ocean for more energy, we need clean shipping, clean vessels, more technology and monitoring”, he said.

Josef Aschbacher, who leads the European Space Agency’s work on earth observation, told conference delegates that the agency is “now designing the next generation of six new Sentinel satellites in line with the EU priorities expressed by the European Commission, including Ursula von der Leyen’s new Green Deal”.

Iain Shepherd, a maritime innovation expert at the EU executive, said that the oceans would be a key source of energy as the bloc decarbonises. “All of the scenarios say that a quarter of this [renewable power] will come from offshore, which is about 20 times more than we are doing now, as much as what we are doing with fossil fuels and twice as much as nuclear”.

“This is going to be a fantastic opportunity affecting biodiversity, creating wildlife improvements, artificial reefs,” he added.

Follow Up: Council conclusions on oceans and seas.

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