The Swiss Expedition “Race for Water Odyssey” Reaches New York

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The Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) reached New York City, concluding its Atlantic crossing in a journey that will take its six-man crew over 40,000 nautical miles as they attempt to draw up the first global assessment of plastic pollution in the oceans. The crew members will be in the Big Apple until April 15, participating in numerous outreach events including two United Nations (UN) conferences organized by the UNEP about the issue of plastic litter.

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“The world’s oceans receive an enormous amount of litter each year, much of which is persistent and creates marine pollution that is global and intergenerational,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

After completing the crossing of the Atlantic—which was turbulent due to several large depressions—the expedition has now arrived in New York, where it is welcomed and supported by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Consulate General of Switzerland, among others. The crew members will be in New York until April 15th, participating in numerous outreach events including an open forum organized by UNEP to highlight the issue of plastic debris in the oceans.

The R4WO will be the guest of honor this afternoon at a plenary session regarding the “Global Partnership on Marine Litter” (GPML), organized by UNEP at the United Nations (UN) headquarters—undoubtedly the defining moment of the New York stopover. Launched at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, the GPML aims to coordinate and support private and public action in the fight against marine pollution. During this session, an open forum will take place in honor of the R4WO, with remarks by Patricia Beneke, Director of the Regional Office for North America, UNEP, Nancy Wallace, member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Chair of the GPML; and H.E. May-Elin Stener, Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations. At the same time, outreach activities for young audiences will be held aboard the “MOD70 Race for Water” trimaran.

“The world’s oceans receive an enormous amount of litter each year, much of which is persistent and creates marine pollution that is global and intergenerational,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Collaboration between governments, the private sector, civil society and academia is key to stemming the flow of waste into this fragile environment.” Achim Steiner added: “The Race for Water Odyssey is a pioneering and inspiring expedition that is helping to uncover the true impact of pollution in the world’s oceans, 80 per cent of which comes from human activities. Through their bold mission to extend our limited knowledge of waste gyres, and the major environmental threat they pose, the Odyssey’s crew are inspiring us all to take action and speak up for the oceans, the lifeblood of our blue planet”.

“Race for Water, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is a pioneering initiative to clean up plastic waste in the world’s oceans. This pollution concerns all of us, as consumers, as producers and as authorities, no matter whether we are an alpine country like Switzerland or a country with a vast shoreline,” said Switzerland’s Consul General, Ambassador André Schaller. “Environmental protection and sustainable development are essential to ensuring our children’s future. I am proud to welcome the pioneer team to New York City, a place where sustainability is a high-priority for government and citizens alike.”

After leaving Bordeaux, France on March 15th, the R4WO made an initial stopover in the Azores before heading to the Bermuda islands, located in the center of a plastic gyre, to conduct the first of 11 scientific analyses.
Watch the conference live (10:00 am GMT) here: http://webtv.un.org/

Heading for Necker Island, Panama, then Valparaiso (Chile)
The R4WO crew will remain in New York before heading to Necker Island (British Virgin Islands). The expedition is invited there to participate in the Leadership Program developed by Virgin United and
its famous founder, Richard Branson. The “MOD70 Race for Water” will subsequently enter the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal and continue on to Valparaiso. A second series of analyses will be conducted on the island beaches, which are found in the trash gyre of the South Pacific.
Follow the R4WO’s progress live at http://www.raceforwater.org/race_for_water_odyssey/map
More information about the program at http://www.raceforwater.com/steps/new-york-city

About the Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO)
Initiated by the Race for Water foundation, the “Race for Water Odyssey” is a unique expedition that aims to draw up the first global assessment of plastic pollution in the ocean by visiting island beaches situated in the 5 trash vortexes. In less than 300 days, over 40,000 nautical miles will be traveled, punctuated by 11 scientific stopovers and 9 outreach stopovers, involving a total of 13 countries. The Race for Water Odyssey benefits from the support of ISAF, Duke University, Oregon State University, senseFly, Swisscom and Swissnex.

About the Race for Water Foundation
Founded in Lausanne in 2010, the “Race for Water” Foundation’s mission is to preserve our planet’s most valuable resource: water. The foundation is an officially recognized non-profit organization seeking to implement concrete and sustainable actions, focusing on two main themes: protecting oceans and freshwater. “Race for Water” initiates projects aimed at raising awareness and taking concrete action on the ground. These actions are directed at four target audiences: economic players, political bodies, the scientific community, and the general public—with particular emphasis on future generations. “Race for Water” collaborates with organizations such as UNESCO, UNEP, IUCN, WWF, and WBCSD.

About UNEP
UNEP, established in 1972, is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. UNEP work encompasses: Assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, developing international and national environmental instruments and strengthening institutions for the wise management of the environment. UNEP is the Secretariat for the Global Partnership on Marine Litter. http://www.unep.org

About the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML)
The GPML was launched in June 2012 at Rio + 20 in Brazil. The GPML, besides being supportive of the Global Partnership on Waste Management, seeks to protect human health and the global environment by the reduction and management of marine litter as its main goal, through several specific objectives. The GPML is a voluntary multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism gathering international agencies, Governments, NGOs, academia, private sector, and civil society in which all partners agree to work together to further reduce and better manage marine litter. http://www.unep.org/gpa/gpml

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