UNITED NATIONS -- Facing a world still reeling from the U.S. pullout from a landmark climate treaty, the U.N. secretary-general Monday urged global leaders to not abandon multilateralism and work together in confronting maritime sustainability and environmental challenges.
"Pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change are severely damaging the health of our oceans," said Antonio Guterres, marking the start of the first-ever U.N. conference on the oceans and marine resources. "We are here today to turn the tide," he told the crowd of U.N. representatives from member states and hundreds of nongovernmental organizations.
Guterres called improving the health of the oceans "a test for multilateralism," arguing that, "unless we overcome the territorial and resource interests that have blocked progress for far too long, the state of our oceans will continue to deteriorate."
"We must put aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe," Guterres asserted.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 700 voluntary commitments from member states, U.N. bodies and NGOs had pledged financial contributions to the conference.
Member states are expected to adopt a declaration at the end of the week that recognizes the importance of the Paris agreement in combating climate change and outlines ocean conservation targets.