On Monday, Nov. 17, at the World Parks Congress in Sydney Australia, noted New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman, co-moderated with NRDC’s Director of the International Ocean Programme, Lisa Speer, a special panel featuring Environment Ministers Greg Hunt and Edna Molewa, respectively from Australia and South Africa. Other notable guests on the panel included Global Ocean Commissioner Robert Hill, and the Executive Secretary of Guatemala’s National Commission on Protected Areas, Benedicto Lucas. The audience was filled with numerous marine experts, including Dr. Sylvia Earle, and Dan Laffoley, Marine Vice-Chair for the World Commission on Protected Areas.
The World Parks Congress occurs only once every decade and brings together civil society, governments and business leaders to set the agenda for the conservation of the planet for the next decade. Today’s panel session entitled “Sustaining the High Seas, Paths to Progress”, held at the Ocean+ Pavilion to a capacity audience, was an opportunity to hear from government leaders representing a variety of regions, their views on a new bioidiversity treaty for the high seas currently being considered at the United Nations.
Commissioner Hill provided a detailed overview of the events leading up to the proposed global treaty. Environment Minister Hunt gave his unequivocal support for the implementing agreement, and stated that Australia will fully support it at the United Nations. Environment Minister Molewa noted the importance of involving the public as politicians need to be reminded of the urgency. Benedicto Lucas touched on the importance of food security to his country, and also the regional efforts they are supporting to protected Central American Dome. Thomas Friedman queried Dr. Sylvia Earle, “What if we do nothing?” Dr. Earle suggested that perhaps we should make the ocean a global public trust. Dan Laffoley noted that we are approaching a “silent storm” and the sense of urgency needs to be realized.
Lisa Speer closed the meeting with one poignant thought: “We can’t have a World Parks system if half the world is left out of the equation.”