Statement to the June 2017 Oceans Conference organized by the President of the United Nations General Assembly

 

08 June 2017

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council applauds the inclusion of marine pollution in this conference’s call to action. The consequences of continued runoff of agricultural discharge, nitrogens, sewage and plastics (among other pollutants) will be compounded by the very real effects of climate change as sea levels are anticipated to rise worldwide. The need to eliminate pollution and ocean acidification is especially dire when we consider that marine pollution and climate change are interconnected.

Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, which was adopted by 178 governments in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, specifically cites land-based polluting substances as a particular concern to the marine environment.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” The Proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals calls for the reduction of pollution and the elimination of the release of hazardous materials by 2030.

The UN Environment agency’s #CleanSeas campaign, which launched just a few months ago, is a noteworthy step in drawing attention to the wasteful nature of single-use plastic.

But we can and we must do more. Pollution is spreading; the climate is changing much faster than our policies.

Thus, we recommend the following to all Member States:

  1. Adhere to or adopt the Paris Agreement, and establish greenhouse gas emission targets that clearly go beyond previously set goals.
  2. Prefer clean energy sources—such as renewables, solar, wind, and hydrogen—wherever available, to limit offshore drilling.
  3. Supplement municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants with technologies that convert sewage sludge into high value added resources, like carbon-phosphorus fertilizer.
  4. Adopt enforceable ecological regulations on agricultural and industrial pollution, which so often runs from streams and rivers into lakes, estuaries and ultimately into oceans.
  5. Cut marine debris and reduce the need for single-use plastic through better waste management and education, and even consider [[different ways to eliminate]] single-use plastic bags.
  6. Invest in plastic extraction technologies and deploy them in ocean garbage patches.
  7. Prohibit the manufacture and use of microplastics in cosmetics, clothing and industrial processes.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, repeatedly calls the world’s attention to the crisis at hand. He reminds us that:

“We have been commanded to taste of the world’s fruits, not to waste them; we have been commissioned to care for the world, not to waste it. It is never too late. God’s world has incredible healing powers; and human choices can change the tide. Within a single generation, we could steer earth toward our children’s future. That generation can begin now.”