G7 Summit: mixed outcomes for the ocean, Surfrider's advocacy continues


For its 2019 edition, the G7 Summit under French presidency was held on the Atlantic coast in Biarritz (France). It offered an opportunity to draw the attention of the international community to the need for better protection of the marine environment, on the eve of the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the ocean and the cryosphere. By organizing a pre-summit, Surfrider Foundation Europe set itself the goal of putting these environmental issues on the G7's agenda for action to be taken. Despite the effort being successful with the delivery of an engaging collective declaration to the Group of 7, the following political declarations showed to be not yet up to the challenges. 

Surfrider Foundation Europe strengthens its influence

By organizing an "Ocean Pavilion" in the lead up to the Summit, Surfrider Foundation Europe wanted to promote the importance of the ocean to the heads of state who met in Biarritz. This pre-summit was an opportunity to welcome experts and key stakeholders, including the French Minister for Ecological and Solidary Transition, Ms. Elisabeth Borne. A written report, in collaboration with several NGO partners, will be sent out shortly to emphasize the political actions that a healthy ocean requires.

To put the ocean on the G7 negotiating table, the Ocean Pavilion organized round tables and participatory workshops each day, leading to the development of a formal written declaration. Co-signed by approximately 50 civil society stakeholders active in ocean protection, this declaration entitled "Ocean Call" aims to offer concrete solutions and to demand political measures of preservation. It will be presented again at the following major international meetings: the United Nations Conference on the Ocean in Lisbon (Portugal), the World Conservation Congress in Marseille (France) in June 2020 and the COP15 biodiversity in China in October the same year.

The Ocean Pavilion and Ocean Call are products of intense lobbying and partnership work conducted by Surfrider Europe, particularly with public authorities and businesses. The significant media coverage that accompanied the event, as well as the presence of diverse and inspiring personalities, further enhanced the impact of the advocacy work. Surfrider Foundation Europe welcomes several announcements made in the context of the G7 in favour of the environment, such as CMA-CGM, the world leader in container shipping, pledging not to use the North Route that has opened as a consequence of the melting ice.

Progress still insufficient

In his opening speech, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, spoke of "the call of the ocean and the forest". The consultations that followed were marked by three notable environmental announcements, all three ocean-related.

The first concerns the signing of an international fashion pact through which 32 companies in the fashion industry have committed to reduce their impact on the climate and the ocean. However, no supervisory body has been established to verify that these commitments actually lead to concrete results. The second advancement is the adoption of a charter for biodiversity. Signed by all G7 countries, it is a first step towards the COP 15 on biodiversity in China next year. Finally, the third aim in favour of the environment is that of France advocating to the World Maritime Organization (IMO) for a speed limit for commercial vessels in order to reduce their CO2 emissions. This measure is considered positive but must now receive the support of other states since no agreement was reached in Biarritz.

While new environmental commitments have certainly been made at this G7 Summit, the interactions have closed with too little significant progress for the ocean. Surfrider Foundation Europe will therefore be vigilant to help ensure that in following international meetings, these commitments will multiply, strengthen and finally be realized.

The Ocean Call

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