Wednesday, September 14, 2016
In a conference call today from Washington, D.C., the Our Ocean conference, to be hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, was previewed for reporters. The September 15 to 16 event, according to its website, has been designed to "catalyze actions" to protect the ocean from human-induced threats -- including unsustainable and illegal fishing, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts -- and "to empower a new generation to lead the way toward a healthy and sustainable ocean." Some of the speakers at the event will include Ministers of Fisheries and Foreign Affairs and other heads of state from around the world as well as actor-cum-environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio and other environmentalists, and industry big wigs. Speaking at 12 ET were Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli and Special Envoy for Climate Change Dr. Jonathan Pershing. After speaking, they took a handful of calls from reporters from AP and other news agencies as well as me. The takeaways: - Firstly, on the website, Sectretary of State John Kerry says, “We have to keep the momentum going so that we can come together and protect our ocean. Why? Because our ocean is absolutely essential for life itself – not just the food, but the oxygen and weather cycles of the planet all depend on the ocean.” - Secondly, the event organizers expect to effect real change following this, the third annual Our Ocean conference. Novelli pointed out that last year, the result was $4 billion in "ocean conservation activity" and this "ended up with marine protected areas, which are like national parks in the ocean." Novelli intimated that more marine protected areas could result from this conference. - Seventy-one percent of Earth's surface is made up of our ocean, which is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, i.e. acidification, as well as overfishing and other ills. - During the conference there will be an announcement on the website regarding banning of plastic bags in some countries. When AP science writer Seth Borenstein asked which countries, and if that included the US, Novelli paused and then encouraged the reporter to check the website during the conference. - In response to this reporter's inquiry about how a new Administration, i.e. one that does not support the reality of climate change, could affect work the organizers are doing, Novelli was quick to assert that the conference will continue for at least three more years. "What's so exciting is that because this (the problems in the ocean) has now been elevated and so many countries are involved, the EU has announced they will host the next conference in 2017 for our ocean; but, what is not known and will be announced, [though we aren't announcing yet which} countries and which years, is we know this will continue and we are very, very excited about that.” - And in response to this reporter's query about the Paris Agreement being non-binding and how that could impact their results at the conference, Pershing said in part, "The meetings were meant to be the start of a process, not the end. I've been talking to people and they are now implementing [aspects of the Agreement.] He said that the ramifications are "not just a legal exercise, but a political exercise" and affect the countries at a very deep level. There's been a sharp decline in some alternative energy source prices, he said, and a move toward renewables. "In the the last eight years since we've been in office, the price of solar is down by a factor of 10" and wind and geothermal, too are compeitive, he said. "This shows we won't reverse course."