Officials from 80 countries and intergovernmental institutions begin the five-day World Ocean
Conference (WOC) here Monday with an appeal to the international community to give the oceans a more central role at UN climate change talks.
The Indonesian government, the host of the inaugural ocean talks, has expressed optimism the conference has enough political support from developed and developing countries alike, as well as scientific credibility, to come up with results that will be included in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen in December.
“With some 80 countries, including major powerhouses like the United States attending the conference, and around 1,500 scientists discussing the role of the oceans on climate change, we have confidence the world will accept our declaration,” Eddy Pratomo, a key member of Indonesian delegation, said Sunday.
The UNFCCC is an international treaty on environmental issues, dealing primarily with climate change and reducing global warming.
Currently, nearly 200 countries have ratified the convention, which was first enforced on March 21, 1994.
The Copenhagen meeting will discuss a new regime on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2011.
Eddy said the fact the US had decided to send its representatives to the conference proved the country supported the talks, rejecting suggestions the cancellation of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attendance at the meeting would affect its international standing.
“Don’t forget that Australia and other big countries will send their ministers. If we unite our voices, then the world will listen to us,” he said.
The US has announced it will send a delegation of about 40 representatives to the conference, with Mary Glacken, deputy undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere at the Department of Commerce, leading a group of top researchers, scientists, technology experts and educators.
Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi said it was time for ocean countries to voice their interests in making the ocean a key topic at all major climate change talks.
“Who will fight for our interests if not ourselves?” he said at a press briefing.
Reslan Izhar Jenie, the Foreign Ministry’s director general for multilateral affairs, and an advisor to the conference organizers, said Indonesia and Manado would be ready for the event.
“Everything is in place. With regard to the substance, the senior official meeting tomorrow will hammer out all marine issues to come out with a strong declaration to appeal the world to place the oceans at the forefront of any climate talks,” he said.
As of late Sunday, however, many workers were still seen putting the finishing touches to the main venue, while police and military officers conducted their final security rehearsals for the event.
Suhardjono, the Foreign Ministry’s media director, said 1,300 representatives from 72 and 11 international organizations had already arrived in Manado.