June 22, Vienna – Some 270 children and teenagers aged between 12 and 16 convened at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) for a children’s summit on ocean pollution titled “The Last Whale”. The children, from different schools across the Austrian capital, discussed the problem of plastic ocean pollution and presented their own solutions on how to tackle this challenge effectively. “We must save our beautiful blue planet, our home, from destruction. We the kids are the future and we must protect the planet,” said one of the participants.
“Kids save Ocean” is an initiative brought to life by local teacher Peder Hill and his students from the Draschestrasse Vienna bilingual school. It aims to give children a voice on environmental protection. Welcoming the young participants, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, Yury Fedotov, stressed the need for action: “Of course oceans and seas are home to amazing wildlife. Clean oceans protect our climate and provide food, jobs, opportunity to swim, but also to do much more. The point is that unfortunately today these water resources are under great threat.”
In a video message from Nairobi, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim congratulated the children on their efforts and said, “We cannot change the world if young people don’t take the lead. Children everywhere must have a voice on our planet’s environment.”
At the end of the summit, the children cast their votes on which solutions to ocean plastic pollution, presented to them during the conference by their peers, they found most important. These priorities were included in the summit’s final declaration. The three priorities on plastic deemed most important by the children were education, following the principles of “reuse, reduce, recycle”, and supporting large ocean cleaning projects and technology. The outcome of the conference has been sent to Director-General Fedotov and Executive Director Solheim.
“The Last Whale” conference was hosted by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna with the support of the UN Environment Vienna Office - Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, and featured contributions by seven Vienna-based UN Organizations, as well as the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Rio de Janeiro, on how their respective work contributes to protecting the oceans.