The United Nations Wants to Clean the Ocean by 2030

A group of international experts gathered to create a plan that would help the UN reach its goal of cleaning the ocean by 2030.

Reducing 50% to 90% of debris, improving monitoring systems, and developing new ocean cleaning technologies are some of the top priorities established by The Clean Ocean International Expert Group of the UN during last weeks’ Ocean Decade conference.


Background: Marine pollution is on the rise

The increase of industrialization and human population size has been detrimental to our oceans’ welfare. Combinations of chemicals and trash are constantly filling up the ocean resulting in high levels of marine pollution that pose a grave danger to the environment and health of all living beings.

Factory wastewater discharges, farm fertilizers, and unrecycled trash (especially plastic materials) are the main sources of the current state of marine pollution and debris accumulation at sea.

As a climate stabilizer, carbon sink, and provider of sustenance to over 3 billion people, the ocean is in great need of care and protection. The UN recognized this and, in 2017, proclaimed 2021 to 2030 the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, a time when different communities will take advantage of new technologies to study, conserve and learn how to sustainably use the ocean and its resources.


Analysis: The ultimate guide to a clean ocean

During a three-day online Ocean Decade conference, the group of scientists presented a list of activities, goals, and strategies that will hopefully lead them towards a clean ocean. “By 2030 we want to achieve measurable improvement in monitoring and a clear reduction of emissions and harm through a spectrum of technical and behavioral strategies,” the group said.

clean the ocean

According to the researchers, some of the measures that would lead to the most direct route to a clean ocean would involve:

  • Reducing and removing top-priority forms of pollution (e.g., marine debris) by large amounts, as much as 50% to 90%;
  • Reducing sources or emission of pollutants (e.g., anthropogenic noise, discarded plastic and harmful chemicals, farming practices adding harmful sediment outflow), to prevent recurrence;
  • Dramatically improving the outcomes of control measures (e.g., to decrease amounts of mercury in tuna, die-offs of marine life, eutrophication);
  • Lifting public engagement and understanding with access to information associated with behavioral shifts favoring the motto of “reduce, reuse and recycle” and encouraging participation in citizen science as part of events involving sailing, surfing, and other activities dependent on a Clean Ocean.

They also set more specific targets, which mostly involve gathering information and financial aid, that should be reached by 2025 in order to ensure the ultimate goal is achieved in 2030. Some of these objectives involve quantifying the global harm of marine pollution, setting pollution threshold values, identifying high-priority geographic challenges, and securing major financial commitments.


Outlook: The Ocean Decade is underway

This conference provided a solid framework that allowed the proper identification of specific objectives, efforts, targets, and timetables that need to be activated and worked on to protect the marine environment and reduce its pollution by 2030.

Taking these steps, we’ll be able to understand and overcome marine pollution, protect and restore the ecosystems and biodiversity, change humanity’s relationship with the ocean, and (hopefully) much more.

These proposed activities will be shared with other expert groups, national committees, endorsed projects/ programs of the UN Ocean Decade, and any other organizations that would like to participate in this initiative.

For those who missed the conference, the Clean Ocean Laboratory still offers you the opportunity of catching up with the Core Event and the Wrap-up, through the UNESCO YouTube channel.