Environmentalists criticize what they see as meager results from the UN Ocean Conference and sound the alarm. Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, on the other hand, is less pessimistic about the future.

According to the unanimous opinion of environmentalists, the five-day debates with around 7,000 participants at the second United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon were in vain.

It was a “missed opportunity”, criticized organizations such as WWF, BUND, Misereor and Brot für die Welt on Friday at the end of the conference in a joint communiqué. Marine expert Till Seidensticker from Greenpeace Germany was also “disappointed”. He warned: “We’re running out of time.”

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke understands the criticism and concerns. “Of course I understand that,” said the Green politician in an interview with the German Press Agency on the sidelines of the conference in the Portuguese capital. It is “completely true that far too little has happened for ocean protection in recent decades”. Much more needs to be done. “So it’s good that the protests are giving momentum for more government involvement,” Lemke emphasized. In a statement released later, she said the conference would send a “wake-up call to the dramatic state of the oceans.”

Around 30 heads of state and government, other politicians, scientists and representatives of companies and non-governmental organizations took part in the conference. They discussed ways to better protect the world’s oceans, which are increasingly being affected by litter, overfishing, climate change and acidification, and to use the resources of the ecosystem as sustainably as possible.

“Collective failure” is acknowledged

At the end there was a “Declaration of Lisbon”, in which, among other things, at least a “collective failure” in marine protection and the “devastating” consequences of human-caused climate change on the ecosystem are admitted. More “ambition” is also called for in the search for solutions.

The problem with the explanation? It only offers “non-binding commitments”, the states evade their responsibility, as stated in the communiqué from BUND, WWF

Only a large number of individual initiatives announced in Lisbon, “which set impulses in areas such as deep-sea mining, fisheries and underwater noise”, should be rated positively. Meanwhile, Lemke is convinced that the list of positive points is longer. A “great sign” is that “so many heads of state and ministers have committed themselves to ocean protection”.

Closing statement not watered down by lobbyists

The minister emphasized that there was a great deal of commitment in Lisbon. Unusual and “a very good sign”, for example, was the fact that the pre-negotiated final declaration was not weakened by lobbying or political pressure, as was the case with other conference formats.

Among other things, Lemke acknowledged the fact that French President Emmanuel Macron even called for laws against deep-sea mining when he appeared in Lisbon. “That’s a very strong statement.” The G7 have “agreed on major hurdles for possible deep-sea mining, also on my initiative”.

The young activists who held placards with inscriptions such as “The politicians are talking, the oceans are dying” or “Listen to science, climate revolution immediately!” at a demo on Wednesday evening. wore, see everything very differently. “The politicians talk and talk and talk, but do nothing,” said 21-year-old Michael from London to the dpa.

Warning of an ocean apocalypse

Even experienced environmentalists are dissatisfied and sound the alarm: the respected marine biologist Emanuel Gonçalves warned of an “apocalypse” of the oceans and even criticized the goal of protecting at least 30 percent of the seas by 2030 – more than three times as much as before. That’s still too late and too little, the Portuguese complains.

86-year-old Sylvia Earle agrees. The legendary US marine biologist suggested following the lead of countries like Chile and Panama, which have announced plans to protect at least 40 percent of their coastal waters in the coming years. “Why 30 percent, why not more?” she asked.

With the current development, OceanCare analyzed that the 14th of a total of 17 goals of the UN Agenda 2030, which envisages the protection of 30 percent of the oceans, is “on the right track” not to be achieved. “The seas are in a critical condition. Now the entire global community must find concrete solutions,” said the organization’s executive director, Fabienne McLellan. The decisive factor is “that the commitments are followed by deeds”.

The world’s oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface and are home to over 80 percent of life on earth. For billions of people they are the basis of work and nutrition. The oceans are also a crucial part of the global climate system. They produce over half of the oxygen we breathe and absorb around a quarter of all CO2 emissions.