United Nations Environment Program

Topic 1: Addressing the Degradation of Ocean Habitats

Currently, oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface and over three billion people depend on aquatic ecosystems for their daily lives. The benefits of the oceans and aquatic biodiversity extends from food resources, to employment, to carbon dioxide-oxygen cycles, to regulating the climate, and many more.

With the increase of pollution, waste dumping, overfishing, carbon emissions, and eutrophication – the ocean habitats and biodiversity are being destroyed. These activities negatively impact the acidity, cleanliness, and diversity of one of our most essential global resources.

Some organizations are pursuing initiatives to clean up waste in the ocean (such as in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch), whereas other groups and individuals are trying to decrease or eliminate the use of plastic packaging or create plastic-alternatives all together. Certain nations and organizations are creating laws and legislation to prevent overfishing and encourage sustainable fishing and harvesting practices. Practices to prevent degradation and initiatives to clean-up ocean habitats can be extremely costly and time consuming.

Nations such as China and Indonesia are considered high contributors to ocean pollution and degradation. Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Thailand, the United States of America, and several other nations are also major sources of plastic and pollution in the ocean. Some nations continue producing plastic waste and pollution, as they receive economic benefits (e.g selling products in plastic packaging), while others cannot afford to properly dispose of or recycle existing waste.

The United Nations and other organizations have been discussing how to both limit the production of ocean pollutants (e.g. plastics, gases, etc.) and how to clean up the existing garbage and waste in ocean habitats.

Sources and Further Reading:
United Nations Sustainable Development – Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources:

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/

National Geographic – Ocean Threats:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/ocean-threats/

WWF- Oceans:

https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/oceans/problems/

National Geographic – Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

Topic 2: Addressing the Displacement of Individuals due to Climate and Environmental Impacts

Natural disasters, rising sea-levels, a lack of natural resources, erosion, and other environmental changes can all displace individuals from their homes. Relocation or immigration is necessary for the survival of individuals that are forcibly displaced due to environmental or climate changes. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) estimation that by 2050, between 150 – 200 million individuals will be displaced due to climate change is an increasing global concern.

Nations are more susceptible or affected by climate and environmental crises if they are less developed, developing, or landlocked. The most vulnerable nations often contributed the least to climate change. It is difficult for these nations to take preventative measures or recover after environmental disasters and climate changes because they lack the economic resources to do so.

There are many discussions and debates on what rights and protections should be in place for climate migrants. For example, the United Nations continually discusses if it is ethically and legally acceptable for a nation to send a climate migrant back to their home nation if their life is in danger or at risk due to the climate crisis.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are taking action by instituting preventative measures, such as flood defenses, in nations lacking the economic resources to protect themselves from environmental and climate changes. Other NGOs are focusing on advocating to alter policies to support climate migrants and refugees.

As millions of individuals are annually displaced due to climate and environmental effects, there are increased pressures on nations to accept more immigrants. With the influx of individuals moving to new nations, certain areas face the risks of regional destabilization and overpopulation. With this in mind, certain nations, NGOs, and lobby groups are encouraging nations to limit their carbon and gas emissions to prevent increased climate change.


Other Resources:
National Geographic – Climate Refugees:

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/climate-refugees/

Climate Institute – Climate Migration: A Growing Global Crisis:

http://climate.org/climate-migration-a-growing-global-crisis/

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Let’s Talk About Climate Migrants, Not Climate Refugees:

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/06/lets-talk-about-climate-migrants-not-climate-refugees/

The UN Refugee Agency – Climate Change and Disaster Displacement:

https://www.unhcr.org/climate-change-and-disasters.html