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Sea level rise in the Carteret islands, BougainvilleTHREATENED BY RISING SEAS, some of the world's small island developing states are demanding that the UN's new set of Sustainable Development Goals place a high priority on the protection of oceans and marine resources.

A growing number of these states, including Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Maldives, Tonga, Nauru and Kiribati, are making a strong case for a stand-alone goal for the protection of oceans in the post-2015 development agenda, which is currently under discussion.

Hassan Hussain Shihab, first secretary of the Maldives diplomatic mission to the UN, told IPS that oceans are a priority for the Indian Ocean island nation, whose 339,000 citizens are threatened by sea-level rise.

"The establishment of an SDG dedicated to oceans is critical to Maldives as the oceans are our source of life, livelihood and the identity of the people," he said.

Covering more than 70% of our planet's surface, he said, oceans play a key role in supporting life on earth.

"They regulate our climate, provide us with natural resources and are essential for international trade, recreation and cultural activities," he said. "We therefore strongly call for the creation of a Sustainable Development Goal for oceans, which covers the coasts, the exclusive economic zones and the high seas."

Recent_Sea_Level_RisesAddressing the General Assembly, King Tupou VI of Tonga told delegates, "Tonga joins in calling for the inclusion of climate change as a cross-cutting issue of Sustainable Development Goals.

"Oceans are a thematic priority and should also be prominently featured in the SDGs and the post-2015 agenda," he said.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer, has called for greater international support for SIDS.

"It is a recognised fact, but it is worth repeating, that SIDS contribute the least to the causes of climate change, yet we suffer the most from its effects," he told delegates during the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) sessions in September.

He said small island states have expressed "our profound disappointment at the lack of tangible action."

Cyrie Sendashonga, global policy director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told IPS healthy oceans are essential to sustainable development, supplying food, oxygen, carbon storage and other vital services for humanity.

Oceans are front and central in the quest for sustainable development and deserve their own Sustainable Development Goal, she added.

As the recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change clearly documents, 90% of climate change energy since 1971 has gone into the ocean in the form of ocean warming. Warming may have started as far back at the 1870s, Sendashonga said.

Overfishing, pollution and increasing nutrient levels compound these effects, weakening food webs and ecosystem integrity.

"Urgent and far more ambitious actions are therefore needed to keep pace with the changes in the ocean," she said.

A Pacific island nation with a tiny population of about 100,800, Kiribati is one of the many SIDS in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth because of rising sea levels.

"Healthy oceans are critical for delivering on the U.N.'s post-2015 development goals," said Ambassador Makurita Baaro, permanent representative of Kiribati.

"We have to be the most studied, most researched and the most media-covered nation relating to climate change,'' she told delegates last week at a meeting of the U.N.'s social and economic committee.


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