MPs demand 'Paris Agreement for the sea'

17th January 2019

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The UK government must develop a legally binding 'Paris Agreement for the sea' to protect marine life from climate change, overfishing and pollution, a cross-party group of MPs has said.

In a report published today, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said the commitment would help drive global action, warning that ocean plastic pollution is set to treble in the next decade.

The MPs also urged the government to bring forward its 2042 target date for achieving zero avoidable plastic waste, arguing that the current “out of sight, out of mind“ approach was leaving marine resources at great risk.

Moreover, the EAC recommended a ban on plastic packaging that is difficult or impossible to recycle, and said legally binding targets for water quality should be introduced to reduce chemical pollutants from land.

“We have to stop treating our seas as a sewer,“ EAC chair Mary Creagh, said. “Plastics, chemicals and sewage are choking our oceans, polluting our water and harming every ocean species from plankton to polar bears.

“Supporting Indonesia and Malaysia to reduce plastic while simultaneously exporting our contaminated plastics to them shows the lack of a joined-up approach at the heart of the government's strategy.“

The EAC report also highlights how the long-term harm from plastic pollution remains unknown, with the government's chief scientific adviser saying this was “because we haven't looked hard enough“.

In addition, it warns that the world is set to lose 90% of its coral reefs even under the best-case scenario, with climate change posing a “triple whammy“ of threats to the ocean through, warming, deoxygenation and acidification.

The oceans are also under threat from deep-sea mining, according to the report, with the practice risking potentially catastrophic impacts on seafloor species and habitats.

The government could go some way to addressing this by ruling out exploitation of resources in unique ocean environments, the EAC said, which also called for net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Our children deserve to experience the wonders of the ocean, but climate change poses a triple whammy of threats which are decimating marine life,“ Creagh continued.

“The government's 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude on the seas must change.“

Image credit: iStock


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