Skip to main content

United Nations Ocean Conference

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 13 July 2017

I would like to update the House on the recent United Nations ocean conference, held in New York from 5 - 9 June. Although I was unable to attend due to the pre-election period Defra’s deputy director for marine policy led the United Kingdom delegation. I wish to convey to the House the global importance of the conference and summarise its key outcomes.

The UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, commonly referred to as SDGs or the UN 2030 agenda, are a collection of 17 goals that set the global environment and development agenda from 2016 to 2030. They cut across all areas of Government, from ending poverty and achieving gender equality through to tackling climate change and using resources sustainably.

The conference was an attempt to galvanise international action on the implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This SDG tackles a range of marine issues such as marine pollution and ocean acidification.

It produced two major outcomes: a call for action and a registry of over 1300 voluntary commitments made by the global community to support the implementation of SDG14.

I am pleased to report that, through our statement to the conference, the UK Government were able to demonstrate our continued support for the SDG process. We recognise the delivery of SDG 14 has a particular significance for small island developing states and least developed countries and that we would continue to support the Commonwealth marine economies programme, in developing sustainable ocean economies, alleviating poverty, and mitigating the effects of climate change and environmental threats.

The UK Government statement noted that climate change and ocean acidification continue to be significant threats to the long term health of our oceans. We highlighted the major role the UK played in securing the Paris Agreement and reiterated our commitment to its implementation.

I am also pleased to report that, recognising the need to take action on pollution from land-based sources, including the increasing amount of plastics and micro-plastics, the UK was able to sign up to the UN environment clean seas campaign.

The expertise of our marine science industry was demonstrated through the successful ocean acidification event led by the UK.

The UK also made four voluntary commitments to support the implementation of SDG14, highlighting our work on marine protected areas, including in the overseas territories; marine science; marine litter and the Commonwealth marine economies programme. These can be viewed on the conference website at:

The call for action was agreed by consensus at the conference although the United States dissociated itself from the language on the WTO and recalled the US administration position on the Paris Agreement. The call highlights particular action to be taken on a number of issues including: the need to increase scientific knowledge, prevention of pollution, in particular from plastics; delivering sustainable fisheries and improving access to market for small scale artisanal fisheries in developing countries; concluding negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on fishery subsidies; and encouraging active engagement in the discussions on the development of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The call for action is available at: