From Caesar Zvayi at the UNITED NATIONS, New York
PRESIDENT Mugabe arrived here yesterday to attend the High-Level United Nations Conference on the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, commonly known as the Oceans Conference.
The SDGs are a set of development targets adopted by the UN to succeed the Millennium Development Goals that lapsed in 2015, and SDG 14 deals with the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources.
SDG14 thus dovetails with Zimbabwe’s development thrust as Government seeks the judicious exploitation of natural resources in a sustainable manner in addition to getting a fair deal on marine traffic as a landlocked country that depends on others for access to ports.
The President, who is accompanied by First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and senior Government officials, was welcomed at JFK International Airport by Ambassador to the UN Cde Frederick Shava and embassy staff.
The Oceans Conference, which is being co-chaired by Fiji and Sweden, comes at a time the world is in an uproar over the US’s decision to dump the Paris Climate Accord that bound countries to commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases, principally water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, absorb and retain heat in the atmosphere which increases global warming which in turn affects ocean and sea surface temperatures in addition to melting glaciers, among other ills.
El Nino phenomena result from the warming of the ocean surface or above-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean which lead to intense drought in parts of east and southern Africa.
The rise in marine temperatures also leads to the development of low pressure centres that manifest in tropical cyclones and depressions which bring heavy rainfall to the coast and inland.
Zimbabwe recently experienced these weather extremes manifest in the heat wave that broke decades-old temperature records in 2015, the El Nino induced drought of the 2015/6 summer cropping season and the heavy rains and floods that recently ravaged the country and which were declared a state of disaster in the 2016/7 summer cropping season.
The Oceans Conference, which runs from June 5 to 9, seeks to, among other things, reverse the decline in the state of the oceans and seas focusing on solutions-focused engagement from all stakeholders.
It comprises eight plenary sessions, seven partnership dialogues, a special event to commemorate World Oceans Day on Thursday, as well as an array of side events.
It is hoped that the conference will culminate in the consensual adoption of a concise, intergovernmental declaration dubbed ‘‘Our Oceans, Our Future: Call for Action’’, to support the implementation of Goal 14 which seeks to, among other things;
- Prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution;
- Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems;
- Minimise and reduce the impacts of ocean acidification;
- Effectively regulate and end overfishing; and,
- Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas by implementing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.
Zimbabwe also seeks to tap into the technical expertise of other countries here to manage its own aquatic ecosystems like Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, Lake Kariba and other major dams.