Indonesia try to convince the world of the key role of the ocean in climate change and the importance of including it as a part of United Nations climate talks when the five-day World Ocean Conference in Manado.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Saturday the ocean had been overlooked for years by the world as a major carbon sink, despite covering two-thirds of the Earth's surface.
"The ocean plays a major role in determining the world's climate system, but climate change talks have not included it so far. We aim to bring the declaration of this conference to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen by the end of this year," he told reporters when conducting final checks on the event's preparations.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi has repeatedly said the ocean should be given credit for its role in absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), similar to forests that help control climate change. He highlighted the latest legal framework that governs the use of the ocean, the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS), which is now 27 years old.
"We hope the Manado Ocean Declaration will be incorporated into talks during the 15th UNFCCC Conference of Parties meeting in Copenhagen," he said.
Hassan pointed out Indonesia's long struggle to convince the world of the importance of the ocean. "We need to unite all the ocean countries to be able to push for the inclusion of the ocean in the Copenhagen talks," he said. "We have to work hard to determine what's next after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. With the declaration, we hope the ocean dimension will play a greater role *in a new agreement* after the Kyoto Protocol."
The WOC is also expected to produce a joint declaration acknowledging the destructive impacts of climate change on the ocean and small-island states, with the rising rate of global climate change in recent times threatening marine species and the livelihood of the people living in those countries.
Manado is also set to host the Coral Triangle Initiatives (CTI) Summit, which will be attended by leaders of six countries: Malaysia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
Maritime minister Freddy said donor countries had granted US$70 million through the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) for the conservation of coral reefs, marine resources and ecosystems within the region. Indonesia, he added, had also received $40 million from the US alone for the same cause. Indonesia now hopes to receive the largest portion of GEF funds as it initiated the CTI process, the minister said.
Hassan said that as the country with the largest area within the coral triangle, Indonesia deserved to get the most funds.
The country also wants the secretariat of the CTI to be set up in North Sulawesi.
Hosting the WOC has prompted an influx of investment and tourists.
Indroyono Susilo of the organizers said total private investment from outside and inside the province had reached Rp 1.5 trillion, mostly in the construction of facilities and hotels.
With all hotels fully booked for the duration of the event, foreign and local tourists are expected to jump in the coming months.
In March, the number of tourists jumped by more than 20 percent, or 1,700 people, from March last year, Governor S. Harry Sarundajang said.
by Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Manado
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