Nagoya – 28th October 2010 “It is clear that a more mature approach to global politics and our management of the ecosystems of the planet are required desperately.”

Following breakfast I checked out of the hotel, stowed our luggage and headed for the conference centre via the underground train. It was raining.  I had a meeting with some fellow experts in deep-ocean / high- seas governance at lunchtime prior to our side event on the GLOBE Marine Ecosystems Recovery Strategy. We met under the tented coffee area in the main atrium of the conference centre. The news from the CBD meeting for high seas issues was not very encouraging. Efforts to get the CBD involved in designation of Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas in the high seas had been contested by several states. This appeared to be for several reasons, the first being that some considered that this would effectively mean identifying Marine Protected Areas and the second being that this was placing too much emphasis on the high seas compared to coastal waters. Diplomacy had swung into action but the text that was left at the end of the meeting was severely weakened over what everyone had wanted to see. Moreover, it left states with complete oversight of the designation of EBSAs and little opportunity for a fully transparent process. However, the whole discussion had identified that nobody currently had the legal competence to initiate Marine Protected Areas on the high seas. This had focused attention on the UN General Assembly as the institution that should begin to set up the legal framework for the initiation of high seas Marine Protected Areas.

Following a brief lunch we proceeded to the meeting room. The side event was attended by a relatively small crowd of people, but this included representatives of the European Union and other states including Malaysia and Zambia. I gave a presentation on the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan and then the Zambian representative gave a speech which centred on international agreements related to marine pollution, particularly oil pollution. There followed a presentation by a colleague, Kristina Gjerde, a marine lawyer, who spoke about governance on the high seas and then a presentation from Marjo Vierros, from the UN University who discussed the relevance of the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan on Coral Reefs for CBD. Marjo, in particular gave us some new insights into how the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan for Coral Reefs fitted in with the CBD and gave some important views on interactions between GLOBE and CBD in this area in the future. There followed a question and answer session for all the panellists which was quite lively and with the Zambian representative pointing to the role of parliamentarians in finding solutions to the problems in the oceans.

Following this we packed up and headed back to the hotel with a short diversion to a department store for some presents. I managed to find some three-dimensional puzzles of marine creatures for my children (they were in closed boxes but turned out to be a butterfly fish and a nautilus, the latter of which took an hour to make!). Simon, one of the GLOBE marine team and I headed for Tokyo on the bullet train laden with our luggage and the GLOBE posters. In Tokyo it was also pouring with rain, the leading edge of an approaching typhoon, but we headed out and had dinner at a noodle bar. This was a small shop where the meals were eaten standing up and we then followed this with another snack at a bar before heading back to the hotel. Our flight was the following morning.

What were my impressions of the 10th Conference of Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity. I was on the periphery of the main action of the meeting. Our talks about the GLOBE project and the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan went extremely well and were well received by parliamentarians from various states, including both G20 and non G20 nations. We had done the best job we could and our Marine Ecosystems Recovery Strategy was accepted by GLOBE members. The next phase for this was implementation and that depended on funding for GLOBE to continue from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. I returned to the UK to the news from some quarters that the CBD COP had been a success but this had not been my impression for the marine environment. Marine issues had played too small a role in the negotiations given the size and importance of the oceans to humankind. Targets for conservation of marine ecosystems were left in tatters and the negotiations around the designation of Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas had been severely hampered by a few states for reasons of national interest or otherwise. Climate change, the elephant in the room, had, in my view remained that, a problem that did not seem to figure in the remit of CBD, which in my view was tragic. The climate change negotiations require a very clear message that failure to reach an agreement on immediate and deep cuts in CO2 emissions will result in a major extinction event and which risks severe disruption of the integrity of the Earth system as we know it. CBD is (or was) one of the platforms that can (could have) delivered this message. It is clear that a more mature approach to global politics and our management of the ecosystems of the planet are required desperately.

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Nagoya – 26th October “Every time I hear Dr Rogers talk, I want to rush home and start working”

Following breakfast we got on a coach to the conference centre with the parliamentarians from GLOBE international. My presentation was first. I described the goods and services provided by the oceans, everything from fish to eat to the recycling of nutrients and oxygen production. I then went on to describe the major threats to the oceans including overfishing, pollution, climate change and invasive species. The talk was followed by a presentation by Professor Takeuchi on the Japanese Satoyama / Satoumi initiative. This is a new idea for managing human activities on land and in the sea and is based on a concept of living in harmony with natural ecosystems. There followed a presentation by Député Jerome Bignon on France’s efforts to conserve the marine ecosystem. The Honourable Noah Idechong, Speaker of the House in Palau, then stood up and presented the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan Part 2 (Coral Reefs) to the gathered parliamentarians. He then said something very touching:

“Every time I hear Dr Rogers talk I want to rush home and start working”.

He followed this with a call to immediate action to legislators to play their part in protecting the oceans. There followed an opportunity for interventions from the parliamentarians. These were numerous and showed that our presentations had generated a great deal of interest amongst the delegates. Germany started things rolling by asking whether we wanted to ban all fishing and perhaps replace it with aquaculture. I replied saying that coming from a fishing family I would not like to see a prohibition on fishing. The whole point of the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan was to restore fish stocks and make them more productive. I many cases around Britain we were fishing for the last few percent of fish stocks and in the EU 80% of fisheries were overexploited compared to about 25% elsewhere. Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Guinea Bissau, Sri Lanka, Greece, Angola all followed and contributed to a lively discussion. This ranged in topics from sustainable aquaculture, the Satoumi Initiative, marine protected areas, monitoring control and enforcement, EU partnership agreements, and the situation in individual states with respect to work to conserve the marine environment.

Because of the interest generated we continued with questions until a coffee break at 11.00. I then went to a side event on Ecosystem-Based Approaches for Adaptation and gave a presentation on the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan II (Coral Reefs). Other presentations were on World Meteorological Organisation work on predicting coral bleaching events, manatees, invasive species and the Global Environment Facility. During the question and answer session following these presentations a delegate from Malaysia described the terrible impacts of the coral bleaching event this year and how they had to close many of their MPAs to tourists because all the corals were bleached. Another delegate asked about geoengineering solutions to CO2 emissions from the oceans. I got back to the GLOBE conference room just in time to catch the coach to lunch. In the afternoon there was a presentation of the reports associated with The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) programme by its leader Pavan Sukdev. The TEEB reports show how the natural capitol of the world can be valued and then how this information can be used to inform decision making. For example, coral reefs may be worth as much as $189,000 US/hectare/year for natural hazard management and as much as $1 million US/hectare/year for tourism. There followed a panel attended by Dr Ahmad Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary for the CBD, Mr Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, Ms Monique Barbut, President and CEO of the Global Environment Facility and Ms Inger Andersen, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. The Japanese Minister for the Environment also turned up during the session. Ahmad Djoghlaf welcomed the parliamentarians from GLOBE and pointed out that this was a unique event, combining the work of parliamentarians and the CBD. Achim Steiner talked about the importance of TEEB in “making the invisible, visible”, referring to the fact that the reports would help decision makers to recognise the value of biodiversity and conserve it rather than mining it. He stated that we risked losing biodiversity before we fully understood its value. He also made the point that in the twenty first century we had become actually more dependent on the environment as opposed to less because of the stress placed on naturally ecosystems and an increasing population. He also said that we needed to take oil out of the economy and make the transition to a less polluting society. Monique Barbut pointed out that legislators were often missing from conservation work meaning that many projects failed and the International Commission on Land Use Change and Ecosystems was helping to make sure governments participated in GEF projects. She said the scientists, economists and legislators of GLOBE were able to send a simple but effective message to parliamentarians to act on environmental issues. We were all very pleased to hear that our work on forests, marine ecosystems and on valuing natural capitol was much appreciated and that she was looking forward to working with the ICLUCE / GLOBE on phase two of the project. Inger Anderson pointed out that the World Bank had been trying to push the Natural Capitol agenda since the 1990s but now this was possible. She stated that we had failed to hit the 2002 targets (to slow down the rate of biodiversity loss) but that there was an army of economists waiting to work with ministers of finance in valuation of natural capitol projects. There followed a question and answer question. GLOBE then approved the Nagoya Declaration. The working day was completed by a video presentation by the Nobel Laureata Wangari Maathai and a showing of the Zoological Society of London’s “Stories for Our Children The World in 2050”. This is a very hard-hitting series of images where the planet starts off healthy in the 1960s and then by 2050 dies as humankind overexploits and destroys the natural resources of the planet. It ends by saying “Parents, grandparents, schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers, dog walkers, politicians, zookeepers, children’s book writers, bankers, religious leaders and the military all knew this was happening, but not enough was done. Sorry”. You could have heard a pin drop at that point, it is a very disquieting piece of film / animation. It did go onto say that it is possible to avoid this fate and pointed to:  http://www.zsl.org/solutions , a website which has both the film and a click on menu for a whole range of solutions that help people to reduce their impact on Earth and information on sustainability. I suggest you try it – but I’m warning you, the video is depressing….

 Following the meeting we went to a very restaurant with very beautiful walled gardens, including one with a 1000 year old tree. I sat down to dinner with Kawada Ryuhei, a member of the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament (House of Councillors) and Mr Kondo Shoichi, a member of the Lower House of the Japanese Parliament (House of Representatives). With an interpreter at the table, a delightful lady who led the team of translators at the GLOBE meeting, we discussed marine ecosystems and their conservation. Mr Shiochi was interest to know what we felt about Satoumi and we also discussed marine protected areas and whether such areas should be placed in the high seas. We then had some speeches and returned to the hotel after which the GLOBE team went out for a welcome drink and relaxing chat.

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Nagoya – 25th October 2010

I woke at 03.00, one of the pitfalls of international travel being jet lag. By 04.00 I was working on talks for the rest of the meeting. After meeting the rest of the GLOBE Team at breakfast I returned to my room to work on talks for the rest of the day. In the late afternoon I went to the Congress Centre via the underground train which was extremely efficient and busy. The GLOBE report on Valueing Natural Capitol was nearing completion and the day seemed to have gone very well, with a large number of Parliamentarians in the audience. We then left the Congress Centre by coach for a restaurant.

At this point I must confess that I had been told horror stories about Japanese cuisine. What followed that evening confirmed by experience of the past few days in that the food was truly wonderful. Dish after small dish of beautifully presented and delicious morsels followed. Our Japanese hosts then initiated and evening of multinational Karaoke, singing and dancing which lightened the meeting wonderfully and created a very social atmosphere. We were sitting at a table with the delegation from Zambia, who turned out by far to have the best voices of all those present and three of them sung a wonderful national song in harmony.

I headed straight for bed on return to the hotel. Tomorrow began with me talking about the state of the marine ecosystem globally.

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Nagoya 24th October – “A war against the oceans is a war against ourselves”.

Today was our first major presentation. We met in the Marriot Hotel, Nagoya to discuss the coral reef crisis. The group of legislators was quite small but important. We had representatives from The Peoples Representative Council of Indonesia, thew world’s most important nation in terms of coral reefs. Also present was the French Ambassador for the Environment, Ambassador Thebault and a member of the National Assembly of France. Despite being  a European state, France is the third most important nation in terms of the percentage of coral reefs it hosts, entirely in its’ overseas territories. We also had a member of the National Assembly of Palau, a small island state in Micronesia, number 13 in the world of coral reefs, just after Britain at 12, with its’ overseas territories, such as the Chagos Archipelago. Also present were parliamentarians from India, Sri Lanka and of course Japan, which has coral reefs in the region of Okinawa.

Adam Matthews, the General Secretary of GLOBE kicked off proceedings, followed by a Member of the UK Parliament, the Right Honourable Barry Gardiner. Barry asked everyone to imagine we were in a world where we were at war with the sea. We could not fight it using conventional means but instead we resort to poison, suffocation, and the leaching nitrogen and phosphorus into rivers to cause eutrophication and deadly algal blooms. This would be a slow process but over time the oceans would be like an organism with withered limbs. Imagine being able to eliminate all the enemy cavalry. He asked us to imagine we could target particular species by overfishing to destabilise the healthy structure of the oceans, to cause a rise of slime. Finally we would  wage an aerial war pushing CO2 into the atmosphere, raising temperature and making the oceans acidic. This would alter the pattern of the oceans natural cycles, destroying the seedbeds the oceans use to manufacture our enemies. No great general could inflict greater damage on the world’s oceans than we’re already doing. A perfectly deadly strategy. Barry then went on to describe that only the oceans are not our enemy. They are our friend, our partner, our sustainer. A war against the oceans is a war against ourselves.

I could not have put it better myself. Destruction of the oceans, the Earth’s natural capitol and a critical component of its’ life support system, was indeed a war against ourselves. This was followed by Ambassador Thebault. He stated that the 10th Conference of Parties for the Convention on Biodiversity was the time to start a stronger international reaction to protect marine ecosystems. He described how, even at this stage, some states were not in agreement and through self-interest were unsupportive of strong action to protect the oceans. He described how France had initiated ICRI, the International Coral Reef Initiative, in 1995 when 10% of the coral reefs of the world were under threat. Now that figure was much higher and the survival of tens of millions of people who are dependent on these ecosystems was at risk. ICRI had done marvellous work in protecting coral reefs and there were some very encouraging projects such as the Coral Triangle Initiative. GLOBE, with its Action Plan for Coral Reefs was in a unique position to gain powerful support from legislators to push through measures to protect coral reefs where needed. ICRI and GLOBE could clearly be partners.

The GLOBE Action Plan for Coral Reefs was the plan my team and I had been working on for months (see http://www.globeinternational.info/ – then look under events and finally under Nagoya Forum).  It outlined a strategy for Legislators to work to improve coral reef resilience to climate change impacts and was the second part of our Marine Ecosystems Recovery Strategy (MERS).

France’s speech was followed by a moving speech by the Honourable Noa Idechong, Palau. He described how Palau is very tiny but its’ culture, food, income all comes from coral reefs. Palauan men go out to the reef to learn about the sea, currents and tides as part of entering adulthood. The Palauan people had done very well at living off the coral reefs for 2000 years. However, recently small islands had started to have problems. Bleaching has demolished 40% of Palau’s coral reefs. The communities of the islands were unsettled and could not understand what was going on. Now another bleaching event was occurring. There was great urgency to take action on climate change and to improve coral reef resilience globally.

Then it was my turn to give my talk on the state of coral reefs. I described how these ecosystems only occupied 0.18% of the area of the oceans but harboured 25% of all marine fish species and perhaps a third of all marine species (estimates from 600,000 to 9 million species). Direct human impacts have degraded these systems and lowered their resilience. Now the twin climate change impacts of bleaching, which I described yesterday, and ocean acidification threatened to destroy coral reefs by the end of the century. The oceans have been doing a service to mankind by mopping up a significant proportion of the CO2 we have been producing. This CO2, when it is absorbed by seawater, produce carbonic acid, lowering the pH of seawater. Already this process has changed the ocean pH by 0.1 units. This does not sound like alot but represent 30% more hydrogen ions in seawater and these react with calcium carbonate to produce bicarbonate. Calcium carbonate, specifically the form called aragonite, is what coral skeletons are built of. They require seawater 3-4 times saturated with calcium carbonate to grow naturally. The removal of calcium carbonate from seawater was a direct threat to coral reefs. The slow-down of the growth of reef-forming corals now detected in various parts of the world was probably a result of acidification.

We then heard from Imen Meliane, a good friend of mine, from The Nature Conservancy, a large US NGO. Imen spoke about measures to improve the resilience of coral reefs through the reduction of direct human pressures such as overfishing, comprehensive watershed management policies and coastal zone planning. The implementation of carefully planned Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)was a major feature of her talk and she showed some very encouraging and excellent examples of where such projects had taken place.

Following some questions and the raising of points Indonesia the presented the next session. They raised some very good points. People often were not aware of the damage that they were doing to the ecosystem and a much more holistic approach was required to manage marine ecosystems. Particularly problems arose around coastal development and overfishing. The representative from Indonesia emphasised the need for education and awareness raising of the issues associated with climate change and direct human impacts on the oceans. Legislators themselves were often not aware of environmental issues and needed a particular effort in awareness raising and training as they were often neglected.

Then Leah Karrer, from Conservation International, another large NGO, spoke about how marine protected areas and coral reef management could really benefit local communities. There is often opposition to the idea of setting aside areas of the ocean as MPAs as fishers fear that they will loose catches. Her work showed that fishers and communities from areas where MPAs had been set up in places like South America actually benefited in terms of income and livelihood diversification from the recovery of the oceans. Such projects had many additional benefits, including the building of community relations and a capacity for self-determination and governance at the local level.

We also heard about efforts to protect coral reefs in India and the new initiatives to protect large areas of the oceans around France’s territories. These were progressive and very encouraging new programmes. We also heard an interesting scientific presentation on reef connectivity in Japan by Prof Naduoka and the day was completed by Dr Samuel Frankhauser who described the mechanisms for financing coral reef conservation initiatives. This was a particularly useful talk for many of the parliamentarians in the audience who had asked throughout the day on how coral reef conservation actions could be funded.

Finally, I summarised the GLOBE Action Plan for Coral Reefs and it was accepted with a few small amendments related mainly to education and outreach. The call for 30% of reefs to be set aside as no-fishing zones created some consternation amongst some parliamentarians who thought this would be difficult for people to accept. I defended this with the fact that studies indicated that somewhere around this level was where maximum benefit could be derived from coral reef protection with minimum disadvantage arising from closing off too much seabed and displacing fishing elsehwhere.

The day’s work was followed by an informal reception at the hotel. I then went to bed very tired.

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Nagoya 22nd-23rd October 2010 – “We must save marine diversity for our children’s, children’s children”.

We arrived in Japan and were immediately thrust into the crowded Japanese railway system. The train from Narita airport took about an hour. Then at Tokyo station, which occupies a building with about five floors, we caught a bullet train to Nagoya. I had wanted to go on one of these since being a child but managed to fall asleep for most of the 2 hour journey. I arrived at Nagoya at about 2 o’clock and checked into the hotel which was part of the same building, an enormous double tower, which contained the station. After working all afternoon on talks for the meeting in my hotel room I met up with the other scientists from the GLOBE International Commission for Land Use Change and Ecosystems. After looking at the staggering prices of the hotel restaurants we ventured out into the streets. The area outside Nagoya Station was teaming with people. We managed to locate a building with a restaurant on several floors on a neon-lit street opposite the station. The buildings surrounding the streets here are enormous and you get more of an impression of being dwarfed by the architecture than cities like New York. We had a lovely meal of a mixture of vegetables and meat skewers, served by polite and friendly waiters and waitresses. The English translation of the dishes on the menu caused some hilarity – I’m still wondering what “Stir-fried hormone with lettuce” actually was.

Thanks to jet lag I was up at 04.00 and working again on talks. Today I was to attend Oceans Day at the Convention on Biological Diversity and tell everyone what it was like, as a scientist, working with legislators at GLOBE. A word on this organisation is probably appropriate here. “GLOBE” stands for Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment. It is an organisation of legislators from the G20+ states that get together to informally discuss environmental problems in an informal (free from state political position) environment. The International Commission on Land Use Change and Ecosystems (ICLUCE) is a programme within GLOBE aimed at putting together the GLOBE Legislators with scientists, economists and legal experts to discuss environmental problems in marine and terrestrial ecosystems.  I am the leading marine scientist of ICLUCE which has been going for nearly two years. During this time we have communicated to legislators on the dire problems faced by the oceans arising from overfishing, pollution, invasive species and climate change. In response to this legislators, scientists and other experts in ICLUCE have developed a Marine Ecosystems Recovery Strategy. This focuses on three areas: (a) the sustainable management of fisheries, (b) action to protect coral reef ecosystems and (c) protection of coastal marine ecosystems from the effects of coastal runoff and other forms of pollution.

The Oceans Day meeting organised by the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands began with a very powerful and moving speech by Ambassador Ronald Jumeau, Permanent Representative of the Seychelles to the United Nations. He described how the people on the Seychelles are so dependent on the oceans and his memories of the seas and shores around the islands as a child. He then described the very disturbing news that in 2010 the Seychelles were witnessing another dramatic mass coral bleaching event. This phenomenon, first seen in the late 1970s / early 1980s, is a direct result of global warming. Reef-building corals grow relatively quickly because of a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae. These are the tiny algae that live in the tissues of tropical reef-building corals which provide their hosts with much of their energy requirements through photosynthesis. Under conditions of anomalously high temperature the zooxanthellae go into overdrive and produce excess superoxide molecules. These damage the zooxanthellae, and the coral host, and lead to the algal cells being ejected from the coral tissue causing the bleached appearance of the corals. They literally look like bright white coral skeletons. If warm conditions persist the bleached corals usually die. In 1998 a single mass bleaching event killed 16% of the world’s coral reefs. The event now unfolding in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Caribbean may be of a similar order of magnitude to the 1998 event or may even exceed it in severity. Even the world’s southern-most coral reefs on Lord Howe Island off Australia have been affected.

Ambassador Jumeau went on to describe how the oceans were now “vomiting up” rubbish on the shores of the Seychelles, particularly plastic debris, which has become a major issue globally. Mr Shoichi Kondo followed Ambassador Jumeau in voicing his extreme concerns for the oceans stating that we “must save marine diversity for our children’s, children’s children”.

The rest of the day followed in similar vein. Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault gave a particularly lucid and progressive speech stating that “The generosity of the sea which was seen as with no limit has now reached its limit” and that it was a matter of urgency to protect the oceans. Dr Thomas Lovejoy really summed up the situation saying that “Action taken over the next decade will determine whether ecosystem services on which humans have depended for millennia will last beyond the end of the century”. A grim statement given our progress on climate change over the last twelve months.

There were some positive stories bringing light to what was a dark and sobering message. The Census of Marine Life project, in which my research team and I participated described life from all over the oceans including many new species. It was revealing hitherto unsuspected marine biodiversity with 30 million records of species in the oceans. Some large projects including the Coral Triangle Initiative, the Micronesian Challenge and the Caribbean Challenge were being funded. I spoke to the audience about our work with GLOBE and how it represented a new way for scientists to communicate directly with legislators to help formulate policy to deal with the many problems we face in the oceans. This was well received and immediately we found ourselves involved in a controversy that had arisen in the CBD meeting over the last week, but more of that later.

Following Oceans Day we returned to the hotel in Nagoya where the entire GLOBE team were gathered planning the following days’ activities. We followed this with a wonderful meal as guests of our hosts from GLOBE Japan.

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