Oceans – Sustainable Development Goal




DRAFT #4 , VER 6 – 23 JANUARY 2014

The oceans and coastal regions forming part of the oceans ecosystems are rich in resources which provide contribute not only livelihoods for coastal marine communities but also global food sovereignty and food security. The International Programme on the State of the Oceans (IPSO) acknowledges a situation far worse than the conclusion reached by the UN Climate Change Panel of the IPCC, in that the ocean is absorbing much global warming and dealing with unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide. This international panel of marine scientists warns that the cumulative impact of these changes, and increased levels of deoxygeneation caused by coastal nutrient run-off, combine to produce what is described as the ocean’s “deadly trio” of threats. Revised figures are far graver than previous estimates , 2 and the IPSO has called for an urgent halt to ocean degradation.3 If ignored, we would lose the protective shield the ocean provides against the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere.

The Women’s Major Group on Sustainable Development and the Post2015 Development Agenda therefore makes the following recommendations on Oceans and Seas to the Eighth Open Working Group on SDGs , followed by suggested indicators and targets.


THAT we reiterate the Womens Major Group unequivocal call for a “stand-­alone gender equality goal” in the post 2015 development agenda; and as a cross-cutting sustainable development priority. Addressing advancement of gender equality and human rights is central to transforming current economic, social, cultural, civic and political conditions, and should therefore be, be reflected in all negotiated outcomes. In this way, we can achieve redistribution of wealth, assets and power for social, economic and ecological justice for all. Without gender equality and human rights, the promise of health oceans, lands and air; poverty eradication; and sustainable development will remain unfulfilled.

THAT we support the call by AOSIS, (Association of Small Island States), many individual States and SIDs Interregional meetings and for a stand-alone SDG on Oceans, and inclusion of Oceans as a cross-cutting issue across all other targets and indicators;

THAT ambitious targets need to be implemented urgently, to reduce atmospheric air pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, mercury vapour, methane, POPs and other toxics because they increase greenhouse gase levels and drive up average global temperatures that cause sea level rise and threaten the existence of Small Island Developing States (“SIDS”)4 and low- lying coastal regions.

This requires strong political will on the part of both developed and developing countries. While all States suffer from climate change related issues, The Future We Want Report (2012) recognised, the special situation of SIDS who depend so greatly upon ecosystem services but also face exacerbated challenges due to small land mass; small and specialised economies, geographical isolation; relatively small populations; and costly and infrequent transportation. The smaller low-lying SIDS are worst off as they are threatened with entire loss of their homeland territories within a short timeframe.

THAT, building on the work of the ad hoc working group and before UNGA69, a negotiated decision is needed on the development of an international instrument under UNCLOS and harmonised with specific SDG targets and indicators. A specific legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in all marine environments of oceans and seas is required. It should have a legally binding status and adequate resources to allow for integrated and coordinated monitoring and enforcement for the full range of threats to ocean sustainability and for global biosphere protection, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

THAT SDGs negotiations adopt a biosphere-wide approach, which recognizes interdependence and interlinkage of atmospheric, terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In accordance with the UN Charter, UNUDHR, ICESER and UNDRIP inter alia, response and recovery plans, backed by significant trust funds, should be a prerequisite to any drilling, mining or extractive industry activities proposed, in particular on lands belonging to the state or to Indigenous Peoples. Consistent with corporate responsibility and internalization of costs, preventive measures are needed, including urgent removal from the coast and clean-up coastal refineries, shipping yards, railroads, manufacturing, chemical waste and sewage infrastructure within 3 metres above sea-level or the mean high water mark, whichever is the higher. In the case of SIDS, other protective measures and practices may be necessary to reduce hazards from infrastructure.

THAT Oceans governance needs to be strengthened by clustering multilaterally negotiated agreement on oceanic economic activities in accordance with Rio Principles and meaningful implementation of existing multilateral environmental agreements. Urgent global oversight is needed for oceanic economic activities, in particular for extractive industries. Member states represented in major global governance institutions, especially those dealing with economic, financial and trade affairs5 have been unsuccessful in ensuring that these institutions operate in a manner consistent with human rights obligations of Member States. Nor have environmentally sound practices been effectively considered. The outcomes have been economic systems that over-use oceans and lands for short-term benefits with no regard for long-term consequences, and impacts on ecosystems that have been degraded to the point where they cannot rebound from global warming, contamination and acidification.

THAT more ocean-focused scientific studies are needed at subregional, regional and global levels, on links between oceans and human health, implemented in partnership with state and NSA development stakeholders. Atmospheric mercury sources are from coal-fired power and artiisanal small-scale goldmining (“ASGM”), which is practised in more than 80 countries, many of them developing. The mercury is vapourised into the air, gets into waterways and eventually into oceans and seas. There it is transformed into methyl-mercury and ingested by fish and other marine creatures, and the humans that eat them. This research, carried out on a wide, global basis would provide missing baseline data about the extent of pollutants of the oceans and seas, with the objective of identifying and eliminating sources.

THAT implementation is needed of regional and subregional initiatives to promote sustainable conservation and management of coastal and marine resources, including achievement of Target 11 of Aichi under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Elimination of harmful subsidies that drive large-scale industrialised fishing and other marine overcapacity, banning the use of the most destructive fishing technology and practices, and combating IUU fishing;

THAT urgent measures are needed (including Means of Implementation, non-loan finances and resources) to assist all communities in SIDS and low-lying coastal communities forced by environ-mental changes to plan for relocation; to enable those affected to negotiate and implement agreements for peaceful transitions to other lands; to allow autonomous government to continue in the case of lands inundated with water; to recognise existing territorial boundaries of such States; to remind developed States of their commitments to adhere to agreed ODA levels, and for payments of Loss and Damage consistent with the agreement reached at UNFCCC COP19 Warsaw;

THAT to counter slow progress and any regressions in the UNFCCC, the SDG processes should lead the way in clarifying and highlighting the scale and urgency of climate change conditions, and setting trends toward ambitious and legally binding climate change commitments. The OWG should retain a broader macro view during the next three months of the principles, systems and processes which will underpin the SDGs and Post2015 Development Agenda , in addition to nuancing discussions on SDG goals, indicators and targets.

THAT both developed and developing countries make meaningful reductions in land-based activities that makes up the 80% of ocean pollution from wastes and nuclear contaminants. Wastes containing plastics, heavy metals, POPs and other toxic substances have resulted in gyres or ‘garbage patches’ in the oceans of the world. International cooperation is required to clean up these ‘garbage gyres’ and to prevent further dumping of wastes into the oceans through transparent and strong oceans governance provisions which include the global “high seas” . 6The plastics in these gyres threaten ecosystems, marine flora, fauna and human health because additive chemicals in the plastics break down and are released into the marine environment. Furthermore, global warming impacts on oceans render persistent organic pollutants (“POPs”) chemicals in these plastics more mobile and toxic. Slow breakdown rates of such chemicals as DDT mean that legacy chemical pollution remains. Concerns have also been raised over newer chemicals including brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, pharmaceuticals, synthetic musks used in detergents, and personal care products.

THAT both developed and developing countries strengthen ocean governance to Increase safeguards against Illegal, Unreported, Unauthorised Fishing (“IUUF”). In 2012, the UN FAO determined that 70% of world fish populations are unsustainably exploited. Of this majority, 30% have biomass collapsed to less than 10% of unfinished levels.7 The populations of SIDS and coastal regions rely on ecosystems services especially oceans for food, with 90%of artisanal fishing being for household use. Further, Pacific tuna fisheries are the last in the world fisheries that remain open, but moratoriums and closures may be needed in future to counteract IUFF including that of distant fishing nations. This further impacts the economies of SIDS who struggle to obtain fair and adequate returns from their fisheries resources.

THAT both developed and developing countries, in accordance with the Rio Principles on precaution, should impose a moratorium on experimental technology that may result in irreversible harm to the oceans. For example, experimental deep sea and seabed miningis a new and highly experimental activity for the extractive sector and ALL governments. No proven effective guidelines or standards exist with regard to environmentally sound safeguards for ocean ecosystems and ecosystem services, and ultimately human health. GeoEngineering is a term to describe the large-scale manipulation of ecosystems, including ocean fertilisation. A recent publication by ETC Group documents almost 300 projects under 10 different types of climate-altering technologies.8 We draw attentionto the de facto moratorium against ocean fertilisation established by the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (“CBD”)9. The hazards of experimental technology such as deepsea mining have not been meaningfully considered, and no safeguards are in place. Lessons learned from the Gulf oil spill mean that substantial trust funds are required to remediate or restore areas which have suffered degradation through accidents. When is it preferable to leave the minerals in the earth or seabed floor? A further issues for consideration is extraterritoriality, for example, with regard to deep ocean current systems. How does one country prevent the spread of contaminants to another country’s jurisdiction, and what consequences if it does happen?

THAT we support a moratorium on nuclear weapons processing and nuclear power plant construction;


Establish baselines, as appropriate, and monitor subsequent in changesin:

  1. levels of marine invasive species;

  2. levels of bleaching and die-off of coral reefs;

  3. extinction rates of marine flora and fauna;

Increase and measure the numbers of ecologically-sound aquaculture systems and marine protected areas, from small-scale,through to transboundary.


Measure progress on urgent reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission to the global average temperature increase to achieve below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and long-term atmospheric GHG concentrations below 350 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent levels;

Measure levels of ocean acidification using proven independent, scientific verification measures;

Use proven, independent scientific verification, and community-based programmes, where feasible, to:

(a) Measure levels of nett income earned by SIDS with regard to fisheries governance, compared to revenue of distant fishing nations.

(b) Measure, reduction of overall catch with regard to sustainable fisheries after transparentland multilateral negotiation with affected SIDS;

(c) Monitor under-reporting of fishing catch in SIDS through proven, independent, verifiable community-based research methods;

(d) Measure the extent of pollutants in oceans and seas by more ocean-focused scientific studies , at subregional, regional and global levels, on links between oceans and human health, implemented in partnership with state and NSA development stakeholders; such programmes to include sampling of human hair for uptake of mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other persistent toxic substances with special focus on SIDS, Indigenous and coastal communities who depend on and fisheries dependent communities.

1This briefing paper was elaborated by members of the Women’s Major Group on Sustainable Development, http://www.womenrio20.org/. It is based on a more comprehensive report with recommendations for the post-2015 agenda by WMG members: http://www.womenrio20.org/docs/Womens_priorities_SDG.pdf. For more information, please contact Imogen Ingram, ISAC Inc: imogenpuaingram@gmail.com and Noelene Nabulivou, DIVA for Equality, & DAWN (Assoc): noelenen@gmail.com

2 The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals -Executive Summary here: http://www.stateoftheocean.org/pdfs/IPSO-Summary-Oct13-FINAL.pdf

3 The International programme on the State of the Oceans is housed at Sommerville College, Oxford University, UK: http://www.stateoftheocean.org/research.cfm

4 Small Island Developing States of the Pacific, Caribbean, Indian and Atlantic Oceans

5 These include the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organisation (WTO),

6 Mark Gold, Katie Mika, Cara Horowitz, Megan Herzog, & Lara Leitner ‘Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter A Global Action Agenda’ Pritzker Briefs; UCLA, Emmet Center on Climate Change and the Environment, October 2013: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-report-identifies-legal-shortcomings-249108.aspx

7 Ibid #1

8 The World of Engineering: ETC Maps Earth System Experimentation‘: http://www.etcgroup.org/content/world-geoengineering

9 UN Convention of Biological Diversity (“CBD”) at its Ninth Conference of the Parties in 2008 at Bonn, Germany. This moratorium was then expanded to cover all geoengineering technologies at the CBD’s Tenth Conference of the Parties in 2010 at Nagoya, Japan.

“Finance, Human Righrts & Sustainable Landsscapes – Actions & Concerns for Rarotonga”


University of the South Pacific, Rarotonga
Wed 25 February 2015 at 7.00pm


I think the key take-home message about both climate change and sustainable development is to try to minimize or eliminate the negative impacts caused by humans. We cannot stop natural climate changes, but we can stop the changes brought on by manmade acttions such as air pollution from greenhouse gases or land and marine pollution from poor waste disposal practices.

I would like to clarify how the title of my presentation relates to climate change, and to climate change related actions and concerns in Rarotonga. As residents in a Small Island Developing State, we are more conscious of how we should have a holistic world view. I will focus on two aspects in tonight’s talk – Sustainable Landscapes and Human Rights , because last week Minister Mark Brown talked about the finance aspect.

In our current discussion, “landscapes” has nothing to do with landscape paintings – rather it is a shorthand term to describe how we can use the landscape approach to land management, which brings together all land-use sectors such as agriculture, forestry, energy and fisheries, to ease pressure on the world’s natural resources which are threatened by climate change. As a UNEP spokesman said “Landscape does not have a one-size fits all definition…but it is useful because it desribes the key role of humans in shaping the land”.1
In the Cook Islands, one key tool in managing land-use is the Environmental Impact Assessmen(, which estimates (for instance) whether a change to practices in the economic sector, will have negative social and environmental impacts.

With regard to human rights, we are familiar with the the vulnerability of Small Islands Developing States like ours to climate change impacts we did not casue e.g. sea-level rise and more frequent cyclones during El Nino periods) . Our negotiators work through the UNFCCC arena to reduce greenhouse emissions from other countries that are causing these threats to our atolls. However, I was disappointed at the last SPREP2 meeting in Marshall Islands in September 2014 to find that SPREP is promoting the installation of 28 new healthcare waste incinerators funded by the EU – an old technology that is not longer used in the EU regionj, and replaced by newer procedures in the Philllipines because of high associated costs. The proposed Pacific healthcare waste incinerators will be too small to have effective pollution controls.

At the February 2015 Preparatory Meeting for the UNFCCC Climate Change Agreement in Paris, NGO human rights and environmental justice proponents called for integration of human rights obligations in the development and implementation of climate change policies and solutions3. This call was supported by several countries, including the EU. In another forum, Asia-Pacific contributors to a UN-Non Government Liaison report were concerned that proposed policies and goals aimed at stimulating economic growth may undermine policies and goals on social and environmental issues.4

A UNDP representative 5 noted that the the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) featured key elements of sustainable landscapes in the 17 goals and 169 SD targets contained within them . Indicators tro measure achievement of these SDGs goals and targets will be negotiated during 2015, together with means of implementation.

During February 2015, there was a whole day workshop on climate finance in Rarotonga, incuding the Adaptation Fund, the Green Climate Fund, so I will not repeat what has already been said. At the 3rd Forum in this series last week Minister Mark Brown referred to the insurance system that has been established to assist the resilience of countries in dealing with damage resulting from cyclones. While Japan has paid the insurance premium on behalf of some countries, the Cook Islands paid its own premium of $200,000.

The Norwegian Carbon Procurement Facility (NorCaP) aims to prevent the reversal of emission-reduction actions and funds Clean Development Mechanism Projects. Today it reported in a press release that the majority of project proposals accepted dealt with methane avoidance (principally animal waste management systems( and about 16% were related to waste-landfill gas.


The Climate Change COP20 held in Peru in 2014 was preceded by the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum at which the CEO of UniLever said that “Business leaders recognize that.the cost of inaction is rapidly becoming greater than the cost of action”.6 He and other leaders went on to say that the governments, businesss and investors need to act faster and think bigger in fighting climate change and promoting sustainable development, using finance, human rights and sustainable landscapes.

A recent UN Non-Government Liaison Report7 noted that the four main objectives of the Post-2015 Development Agenda are:
-rebalance power relations for justice
-fulfill human rights and overcome exclusion
-ensure equitable distribution and safe use of natural resources
-establish participatory governance, accountability and transparency.

Many Asia-Pacific region contributors to this report were concerned that proposed policies and goals aimed at stimulating economic growth may undermine policies and goals on social and environmental issues. They further asserted that the dominant economic model of globalization and free market policies disproportionately benefited the corporate sector, especially transnational corporations.

While most countries have identified climate change as a major threat, there are many like me who believe it is very important but not the sole issue when viewed through the lens of the three sustainable development dimensions i.e. economic, environmental and social dimensions. The Cook Island is party to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (”MEAs”) such as the UNFCCC but also the Chemicals & Wastes Cluster, and these overlap with regard to global emissions of pollutants to the air, soil and water.

Yes, climate change has a direct impact on agriculture and food and water security. But it also exacerbates “sleeper” issues like degradation of the ecosystems that we rely upon. A 2011 report from UNEP8, with contributions by IPEN9, highlighted that climate change increases revolatization of carcinogenic POPs gases into the atmosphere. In 2014, the head of UNEP asserted that more stringent controls over air quality woud reduce the number of people dying before their time.

In my opinion, we could do more in the Cook Islands towards improved waste management and the reduction of methane emissions from our landfill and wastes. We should encourage clean solar and wind energy, but avoid incineration of municipal and healthcare wastes.


In 1992 the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro where the concept of sustainable development was elaborated as part of a long list of recommendations grouped under Agenda 21. It was during that Rio Earth Summit that many principles referred to in both climate change and development forums were adopted, and principles such as user pays, the precautionary principle and common but differentiated responsibilities; user pays, internalization of costs and inter-generational equity came into common usage.

The Commission for Sustainable Development was established and provided a forum to discuss and promote sustainable development under three equally-important dimensions – i.e. economic, environmental and social objectives. Then in 2012, a series of meetings called “Rio +20” considered how well the recommendations from the 1992 Earth Summit had been achieved. The outcome document, finalized in June 2012 at Rio was called “The Future We Want”, was wide-ranging and covered not only climate change but also chemicals & wastes.

The Millendium Development Goals (or “MDGs” which were promoted from the year 2000, will come to an end in 2015. So about three years ago, Colombia proposed the development of a set of replacement goals called “Sustainable Development Goals” (“”SDGs) . By the end of 2014, a set of 17 SDGs had been negotiated on a wide range of economic, environmental and social issues.

The phrase “post-2015 development agenda” has been coined to describe the negotiations that are taking place now to develop targets for the SDGs, and also indicators to measure their achievement.

NZ rejects phosphate mining on chatham rise

New Zealand’s environmental protection authority has declined an application to mine phosphate on the chatham rise in a move that sets a precedent for deep sea mining in other parts of the world including the Cook Islands.

The company wanted to mine three 10 square kilometre blocks per year; mining would have been at depths of up to 450 metres.

The authority’s decision said the mining would cause significant and permanent adverse effects on the seabed environment. This included rare ecosystems including stony corals.

The authority said there would have been destructive effects from the extraction process, as well as from the deposit of sediment from the mined area.

It said the economic benefit to New Zealand from the mining proposal would be modest at best.

The rejection highlights potential issues that the Cook Islands needs to take into account when considering proposals for deep sea mining of minerals in Cook Island waters. This is particularly true because of the importance of tourism to the Cook Island economy, anything that jeopardises the Cook Islands reputation for sparkling crystal clear waters must be considered carefully.


In a report produced jointly by IPEN and Biodiversity Research Institute entitled Global Mercury Hotspots, alarming levels of mercury were found in humans in 14 countries. “Fish and human hair from around the world regularly exceeded health advisory levels,” said Dr. David Evers, Executive Director at the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). “The results demonstrate the need for a mercury treaty that mandates true reductions of mercury emissions not just to air, but also to land and water as well.”


As a Cook Islands public-interest NGO, ISACI took part in this IPEN-BRI project that analyzed mercury in hair and fish samples from 14 countries. Far from industrial sources and with little economic activity other than fishing and aquaculture for black pearls, the Cook Islands hair samples showed comparatively high levels of mercury. The most likely explanation for this result is that mercury is easily transported by wind and sea to remote, pristine environments where it enters the food chain.


“I am glad that a Pacific Islands country participated in this project,” said Lowell Alik, General Manager of the Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority at a presentation to governments on 16th January 2013. “But I also wonder what the levels in Marshall Islands might be, if we took part in a similar study. I have seen the film about the terrible health impacts of mercury contamination on the Minamata community in Japan, and I think our people would want to know.”


The dangers of mercury poisoning have been known for centuries. Exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently damage the brain and kidneys. Mercury can also be passed from a mother to her developing foetus and this can result in brain damage, reduced intelligence and mental retardation. Unless there is a meaningful effort to curb these sources, global mercury pollution looks likely to increase.


Some countries at the negotiations have pushed to eliminate obligations to reduce or eliminate mercury releases to land and water. Without such big reductions, global levels of methyl mercury (the organic form of mercury that pollutes fish and sea food) will increase. This is particularly important for Small Island states (SIDS) who main source of protein is fish.


Reversal of marine pollution has been successful in regions like the Baltic Sea, and Chesapeake Bay. “Clean-up of mercury in the Pacific Ocean would need large reductions by global emitters of their mercury emissions to air and releases to water and land,” said Imogen Ingram from ISACI. “Only then will contamination of our migratory fish be reduced.  SIDS may find that the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, in particular its London Protocol dealing with marine pollution, may be the long-term solution that the Mercury Convention has not provided.”


Given that many foreign countries are fishing under licence in the Pacific, and exporting large volumes of fish to the global market, it is likely that consumers in the big countries of the world would also like to know.


Imogen Ingram

Island Sustainability Alliance CIS Inc. (“ISACI”)

Introducing Island Sustainability Alliance CIS Inc.

 The Society is established under the Incorporated Societies Act 1994 (hereinafter called “the Act”) for the object of :  

2.1 To work with government, private and community sector organisations to develop initiatives that strengthen the community, protect natural resources and human health drawing on traditional knowledge where appropriate.  

2.2 To advocate and promote waste management strategies that assist organizations and innovators with new ideas for utilizing recovered materials and to switch from wasteful and damaging methods to value-added resource recovery systems that help build sustainable local economies.    

2.3 To advocate, encourage and promote local community enterprises in areas such as eco-tourism, habitat protection, adaptation to climate change, energy efficiency, recycling  and minimization of waste, reduction or elimination of air, water and soil pollution.  

2.4 To research local and international trading opportunities between community enterprises and to look beyond traditional growth models to identify local resources and ways to protect and enhance the environment and create sustainable wealth.  

2.5 To address the problem of unsustainable resource flows through such strategies as cleaner production, product dismantling, remanufacturing, re-use, recycling, composting  and export for proper disposal.

2.6 To promote, adapt and disseminate information about technologies and processes that will provide effective alternatives to destructive and/or harmful technologies through the appropriate use of best available technology and best environmental practice.  

2.7 To assist with achievement of sustainable local development outcomes by assisting community organizations with project proposals, and the management and distribution of funds for community benefit