OSLO (Reuters) - The United States is resisting plans to highlight how climate change is disrupting life in the oceans at a U.N. conference of almost 200 nations next week, Sweden’s deputy prime minister, who will co-chair the talks, said on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump doubts that global warming has a human cause and that U.S. scepticism has even affected preparations for the June 5-9 U.N. Ocean Conference in New York, Isabella Lovin told Reuters.
The conference is due to issue a “Call for Action” to limit damage to marine life from threats the United Nations says include global warming, over-fishing and pollution such as plastic waste.
“I think I can safely say that the United States has not been very keen on strong language on climate change,” Lovin said in a telephone interview.
“We are not prepared to leave that (strong language) out. That’s really fundamental,” Lovin said of the draft documents. “The impacts of climate change are almost immeasurable.”
It is unclear how the differences will be resolved. Lovin, who is also Sweden’s minister for international development cooperation and climate, will co-chair the global ministerial talks with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
Among climate impacts, a U.N. panel of scientists says rising water temperatures are damaging coral reefs and driving fish stocks polewards, sea levels are rising and carbon dioxide absorbed from the air has formed a harmful mild acid in water.
“The decline of the oceans is really a threat to the entire planet ... We need to start working together,” Lovin said.
The conference is seeking ways to implement a U.N. sustainable-development goal to safeguard the oceans, adopted by all governments in 2015. A parallel U.N. goal calls for “urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.
Marlene Moses of Nauru, who heads a U.N. group of Pacific island states, said valuable tuna stocks had often moved eastwards with warmer currents in recent years, depleting traditional catches off some western islands.
She said it was vital to factor in climate change in any plan to protect the oceans.
“Leaving climate change out of a document in the context of oceans is like cutting off the right arm of the Pacific island countries,” she told Reuters.
More broadly on climate change, Trump is undecided on whether to carry out his election campaign pledge to quit the global 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, this century.
He tweeted after a Group of Seven summit in Italy on Saturday, “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!” All other G7 leaders reaffirmed strong commitment to the global deal.
Lovin said it had been hard to engage Washington in the ocean conference, partly because key posts at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration remain unfilled since the end of the Obama administration.
The ocean conference will also promote partnerships, such as between governments and businesses, to address issues such as marine pollution, ocean acidification, and marine research.
It will also compile voluntary commitments, such as a Peruvian plan to safeguard local fishing fleets and a scheme by Malaysia’s Sabah region to end “fish bombing” by 2020, in which explosives are used to catch fish.
`Editing by Mark Heinrich
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