Press release

Protecting marine ecosystems and geoengineering Pandora’s box on the agenda of UN environment ministers

February 26, 2024
  • The Sixth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), which starts today in Nairobi, Kenya, will discuss how multilateralism can contribute to tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
  • As an accredited observer to the UNEA, OceanCare aims to contribute to decisions that strengthen ocean governance and is therefore very concerned that a proposal to this effect has been watered down to a lukewarm collection of half-hearted commitments.
  • The ongoing discussion about solar radiation modification technologies bears the risk of opening a pandora’s box. It distracts from the real issues and feeds the illusion that we could be more relaxed about climate action such as phasing out fossil fuels, OceanCare experts say.

The world’s environment ministers are meeting at the UN headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya this week for the sixth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) to discuss how multilateralism can help tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, loss of nature and biodiversity, and pollution and contamination. OceanCare has been accredited to UNEA since 2015 and is attending the meeting with two science and policy experts to contribute to decisions that strengthen ocean governance and prevent the opening of a Pandora’s box of technologies that could cause irreversible planetary damage.

Fabienne McLellan, Managing Director of OceanCare, said:

“One of the resolutions tabled by the EU and Costa Rica at UNEA had the potential to be a beacon of hope for strengthening ocean governance on issues such as climate change impacts, underwater noise, plastic pollution, deep sea mining, fisheries, and improved multilateral coordination. Sadly, during last week’s preparatory meeting, the draft text was watered down by some delegations hiding behind stalemate politics. It is now a lukewarm set of half-hearted commitments – rather than being improved, as we urged, to include a call for a binding phase-out of undersea oil and gas exploration. This resolution needs to be about strengthening ocean governance and to achieve that more ambition is needed.

“We are very concerned that despite the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022, the High Seas Treaty in June 2023, and a growing list of countries supporting a moratorium on deep-sea mining, ministers could fail to agree on strengthening ocean governance at this crucial time. The world urgently needs meaningful action to improve the health and resilience of the ocean and its ecosystems.”

A resolution on Solar Radiation Modification (SRM), proposed by Switzerland and other countries, is evidence of the growing attention being paid to proposals such as injecting sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, launching giant parasols into space and lightening clouds over the ocean. All these technologies seek to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth in order to cool it. Proponents of these interventions argue that by reducing the energy received from the sun, we could limit the effects of climate change.

James Kerry, Senior Marine & Climate Scientist, pointed out:

“Solar radiation modification technologies risk further destabilising an already deeply disturbed climate system, threatening to exacerbate uncontrolled shifts in regional climate and weather, biodiversity loss, food security, global injustice, and human rights abuses for generations to come.

“It is impossible to predict the full impact of such technologies unless they are actually deployed. This should make them a complete non-starter. Anthropogenic climate change is already one live, planetary-scale experiment too many. Discussion of SRMs distracts from the real issues and feeds the illusion that we can be more relaxed about climate action, such as phasing out fossil fuels.”

All the draft resolutions remain under negotiations this week and will be presented to the Committee of the Whole by Wednesday evening with the aim or reaching consensus.


Media contact

  • Dániel Fehér, Strategic Communications Lead OceanCare: +49 176 81434026;