25 September 2019

‘Protect our Life Support System’ urge marine NGOs

Responding to the UN's latest report on the ocean and climate change, marine NGOs call on UK leaders to take urgent action

An open letter from marine NGOs calls on leaders to take urgent action to protect the ocean

Timely, ambitious and coordinated action is needed in order to help protect the ocean and cryosphere. That was the message from the latest Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. 

Over 100 scientists from more than 30 countries assessed the latest scientific knowledge about the physical science basis and impacts of climate change on ocean, coastal, polar and mountain ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them. The report also highlights the importance of education and climate literacy and the benefits of combining scientific with local and indigenous knowledge. 

In response to the report, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) has supported a collaborative call to action from major marine NGOs. In an open letter to the leaders of the UK, featured in today’s edition of The Times newspaper, a collaboration of 22 NGOs has urged leaders of the UK to protect our life support system.  

Read the full letter below: 



The ocean plays a critical role in human health and the health of the planet. It buffers us against the worst impacts of climate breakdown, generates the oxygen we breathe, and provides sustenance and livelihoods for people across the world. The ocean protects and provides for us all. 

The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (IPCC SROCC) sets out clear evidence that the ocean is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. It offers a grim diagnosis of the state of our ocean, showing that our planet’s life support system is under attack. 

We all share the responsibility to pass a liveable planet on to our children and grandchildren. If the destruction of the ocean continues, this will not happen. 

The climate crisis is not limited to land. There is much that can and must be done to protect the ocean, the largest habitat on Earth, so that it can continue to protect us. We urgently need to boost the ocean’s chances of survival in the face of climate breakdown by removing the stressors that are within our reach. 

To revive the ocean, we ask for: 

  • An urgent and more effective response to overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Governments of the UK should, at a minimum, implement and enforce policies that already exist. 
  • A robust High Seas Treaty by the end of 2020, supported by UK efforts.
  • At least thirty percent of the ocean protected through implemented highly and fully Protected Areas by the end of 2030, with the remaining 70% of the ocean sustainably managed. 
  • Protection of the deep ocean, through a precautionary pause on deep sea mining.

Life on our planet is not possible without a healthy, thriving ocean. Please act now to protect the ocean and us all.