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G7/8 Compliance on Oceans Commitments, 1975–2016

John Kirton and Brittaney Warren, G7 Research Group, January 4, 2018

See also G7/8 Commitments on Oceans, 1975-2017 and G7/8 Conclusions on Oceans, 1975-2017

For the first time in G7 summit history, Canada has put oceans as a top-tier priority for the summit it will host in Charlevoix, Quebec, on June 8-9, 2018. It will form part of the trinity of "working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy" presented as one of the five priorities of the summit.

The need to act now to protect the world's oceans is acknowledged by many, most notably the leaders of all member countries of the United Nations when they met at their summit in September 2015 to approve Sustainable Development Goal 14 to protect life below water, to be realized by 2030. Now, almost three years later and one fifth of the way into the journey, SDG 14's component oceans targets are not on track to be met. It is time for other institutional institutions to lend a hand, including the great coastal powers that make up the G7.

But many will ask whether the G7 summit is well positioned to help, given the commitments on oceans it has made in the past and, above all, the compliance of its members with them during the following year. The clear answer is yes, on both the commitment and compliance fronts.

Since the G7 made its first commitment on oceans at Naples, Italy, in 1987, the G7 has made 89 commitments on oceans. These cover a wide range of component subjects, including maritime security and safety, the environment, fisheries, monitoring, climate change, energy, international cooperation, disaster risk management, and self-accountability. The G7 was especially productive at Evian, France, in 2003 with 31 commitments made there, followed by Elmau, Germany, in 2015 with ten and Sea Island, United States, in 2004 with eight. Yet at Ise-Shima, Japan, in 2016 it made only four and at Taormina, Italy, in 2016 only two. At Taormina, U.S. president Donald Trump and his G7 colleagues agreed to maintain "a rules-based maritime order in accordance with the principles of international law as reflected in UNCLOS [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]."

G7 members complied with these 89 commitments at a level of 88% overall, based on the nine assessed for compliance thus far (see Appendix A). This is well above the G7 summit's average for compliance with all its commitments since its first summit in 1975. Compliance with the assessed oceans commitments was particularly strong with those made in 2003, where the three assessed commitments had average compliance of 93%. This suggests that the more oceans commitments a single summit makes, the more compliance will come for all. Across G7 members, compliance has been led by Canada (2018 host) and France (which will host in 2019) at 94%, along with the European Union at 100%.

Together this suggests that Canada's Charlevoix Summit should make many commitments on oceans. But how they can best be designed to maintain and increase compliance, support SDG 14 and save the world's ocean from the many threats they now face are questions whose answers require further research.

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Appendix A: G7 Compliance with Oceans Commitments

N=9 Commitment Text Average Canada France Germany Italy Japan Russia United Kingdom United States European Union
1987-32 We underline our own responsibility to encourage efforts to tackle effectively environmental problems of worldwide impact such as stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change, acid rains, endangered species, hazardous substances, air and water pollution, and destruction of tropical forests. +0.29 +1 0 0 0 0 N/A +1 0  
2003-68 "We will improve the world-wide reporting and archiving of these data and fill observational gaps of coverage in existing systems." +0.75 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 +1  
2003-69 "We will develop an implementation plan to achieve these objectives by next spring's Tokyo ministerial conference." +0.75 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 +1  
2003-121 "We commit to the ratification or acceding to and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides the overall legal framework for oceans." +0.56 +1 +1 0 0 0 +1 +1 0 +1
2005-16 "Six months on from the enormous tragedy of the Indian Ocean disaster on 26 December 2004, we have underlined our support for UN work on post-tsunami humanitarian aid and reconstruction, as well as confirming our commitment to reduce the risk from future disasters and to encourage reform of the humanitarian system." +1.00 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
2009-183 "We commit to contributing, through cooperation with international partners and coordinated bilateral programs, to achieve the goals defined by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia — and related multilateral efforts, including the Djibouti Code of Conduct facilitated by the International Maritime Organization — and the International Contact Group for Somalia." +1.00 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
2015-118 We are committed to maintaining a rules-based order in the maritime domain based on the principles of international law, in particular as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. +0.75 0 +1 +1 +1 0   +1 +1 +1
2015-339 We thus reaffirm our support for the consistent implementation of and strive to align our own ODA-supported investments with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) and the CFS Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems +0.63 0 0 +1 0 +1   +1 +1 +1
2016-148 We reiterate our commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order in accordance with the principles of international law as reflected in UNCLOS, to peaceful dispute settlement supported by confidence-building measures and including through legal means as well as to sustainable uses of the seas and oceans, and to respected freedom of navigation and overflight. +1.00 +1 +1   +1     +1 +1  
Average +0.76 +0.88 +0.88 +0.71 +0.75 +0.57 +0.60 +0.75 +0.75 +1.00
88% 94% 94% 86% 88% 79% 80% 88% 88% 100%

Note: Cells left blank indicated data not available (Russia became a member of the G8 in 1998). N/A = not applicable.

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