June 11, 2021
G7 Must Realize Primacy of Protecting Sea
Source: Japan Times

Minako Iue is the Chair and CEO, Sailors for the Sea Japan and Secretariat of Leading Women for the Ocean and Marta Marrero is the Director of Ocean Governance, The Nature Conservancy and Secretariat of Leading Women for the Ocean.

The stage is set for G7 leaders to make historic progress on climate change and biodiversity this week in Cornwall, England.

Ahead of the summit, environment ministers from the group of wealthy nations agreed to deep emissions cuts; end financing for coal-fired power plants in developing countries; and, conserve or protect for 30% of all land and sea by 2030. It is an ambitious agenda that, if delivered, would help reverse decades of neglect.

Especially important is the ministers' commitment to step up ocean conservation.

For decades, governments like Japan's, have prioritized short-term financial gain over maintaining marine ecosystem health (and the long-term economic benefits it offers).

Consider the high seas, which make up nearly half the planet, yet lack any meaningful management or restrictions on industrial-scale extractive activities.

Therefore, tuna and other species that millions of people around the world depend on face a startling decline; and proposals for new oil drilling and undersea mining seem to grow by the day.

What is more, a failure to ensure ocean health is undermining important environmental progress elsewhere. Since the 1980s, the ocean has absorbed between 20% and 30% of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, and 90% of excess heat in the atmospheric system. provides habitat for 80% of all life.

Put simply, we can't address climate change or biodiversity loss without protecting the sea.

Fortunately, scientists are sounding the alarm. Leading marine researchers from every G7 nation recently endorsed a statement, titled “Seven Asks for the G7.”

It offers the leaders science-based solutions, like banning offshore oil and gas exploration, putting a freeze on deep-sea mining, adopting a treaty capable of ending lawlessness on the high seas, and ocean protections in line with what they have already pledged to do on land, as well marine literacy programs for citizens and decision-makers alike. These are also the main focus areas of the Leading Women for the Ocean, a unique network built in 2019 by influential leaders to raise awareness about the role of the sea to tackle the world's biggest challenges ahead of us.

Now, G7 leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to deliver on an agenda that recognizes climate, biodiversity, and the sea for what they are: interconnected parts of a system that supports all life, including our own. We hope they are listening, because they may not get another chance.