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U.S. Lashed As 'Main Threat' To Environment At UN Ocean Conference

Climate accord exit is "attempting to deny a future to upcoming generations," Bolivian President Evo Morales charges.

06/06/2017 10:44 AM IST | Updated 06/06/2017 10:44 AM IST

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord now makes the U.S. the “main threat to Mother Earth,” Bolivian President Evo Morales charged Monday at the start of the United Nations’ first ocean conference.

Morales called the U.S. one of the world’s “main polluters.” In opting to exit the Paris Agreement, he said, it is “denying science, turning your backs on multilateralism and attempting to deny a future to upcoming generations.” That “has made it the main threat to Mother Earth and to life itself.”

While Morales pointedly attacked the U.S. in his speech at U.N. headquarters in New York City, other leaders expressed strong support of the Paris accord — and sounded the alarm on the deteriorating health of the world’s oceans.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told representatives of about 200 countries in the General Assembly that oceans are the “lifeblood of the world” and “under threat as never before.”

“Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself,” he added. The seas are in crisis due to pollution, global warming and overfishing, Guterres warned, noting that plastics threaten to outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050.

“We must put aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe,” he cautioned, and he urged a “new model” of nations working together to protect the oceans.

Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, whose country is hosting the five-day conference with Fiji, said: “We know what needs to be done. We know the ocean is broken.”

She noted that the oceans are now “30 percent more acidic than in pre-industrial times, big predatory fish stocks have declined by [up to] 90 percent, the surface waters are getting warmer [and in] some areas there are more microplastics than plankton.”

Micronesia President Peter Christian said Pacific islanders fear that the ocean has been left the insurmountable task of healing itself after being used as “a dumping ground for industrial waste” and to absorb other pollution. 

In an apparent dig at the Trump administration, Christian emphasized the importance of the Paris Agreement, adding: “While some may continue to deny man’s culpability for the damaging effects of climate change on islands and islanders ... no man, no island, no village and no nation can deny that trash in our oceans is of man’s own doing [and] man must clean up his mess.”

Protection of the world’s oceans to benefit present and future generations is one of the targets of the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development goals, adopted two years ago.

Some guidelines to address the problems include establishing more marine sanctuaries, cleaning up plastic pollution, managing fisheries more carefully and reducing pollution.

The U.N. will issue a “call to action” Friday with recommendations and voluntary commitments from nations.

Lövin told Reuters in an interview last week that the U.S. did not support the “strong language” in the draft call to action.

“I think I can safely say that the United States has not been very keen on strong language on climate change,” she said. “We are not prepared to leave that [language] out. That’s really fundamental. The impacts of climate change are almost immeasurable.”

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