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Source: Government of Norway

Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Our Ocean-conference in Oslo. Credit: Ida Dahl Nilssen/SMK

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Excellencies, friends of the oceans,

We depend on the oceans for much of what sustains us as human beings – food, medicines, livelihood, energy and welfare.

The oceans hold the key to reaching many of the SDGs.

For decades, the oceans have acted as a buffer against the full impact of global warming.

But this has come at a price.

The oceans have become warmer, more acidic and less salty.

Marine life, fisheries, sea levels and weather systems are being affected. 

Recent reports confirm this grim reality.

We are seeing decreasing global fish stocks, a dramatic decline in warm-water coral reefs, and a major increase in coastal zone damage.  

And scientists are warning us that these developments could accelerate dramatically if we do not keep global warming at or below 1.5 degrees.

The urgency of the task requires immediate and concerted action.  

Our Ocean 2019 is one of several conferences in the coming year that will focus on meaningful action to promote clean, healthy and productive oceans.

By bringing together representatives of governments, civil society and industry to learn, share and act in partnership, this conference gives us a unique opportunity to step up our efforts.

As someone who grew up by the sea – in a country that relies on the oceans for two-thirds of its export revenues – I know that we cannot choose between ocean protection and ocean productivity.

We need to achieve both.

That is why I convened the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, together with Palau’s President, Tommy Remengesau.

A recent study by the Panel’s expert group demonstrates how the oceans can provide climate solutions.

At scale.

Ocean-based climate action could reduce the emissions gap by up to 21% by 2050.

This is equivalent to taking more than a billion cars off the road each year.

Developing a sustainable and healthy ocean economy will be crucial for fighting climate change.

Six ocean-based climate actions can help us to achieve much-needed emissions cuts:

  • investing in nature-based climate solutions;
  • scaling up offshore and ocean-based renewables;
  • rapidly decarbonising ocean industries;
  • promoting sustainable, resilient and low-carbon sources of food from the oceans;
  • advancing the deployment of carbon capture and storage below the seabed; and
  • scaling up ocean observation and research.

These actions will also support job creation and promote food security, climate resilience and biological diversity.

The transfer of knowledge from existing ocean industries such as oil and gas will be important for accelerating ‘the green shift’ that we need to make.

Norway is at the forefront of efforts to develop sustainable ocean solutions.

We have world-leading players in all ocean industries.

Our expertise is in demand internationally.

We see that green solutions are giving way to new business opportunities and growth, as well as helping us in the fight against global climate threats. 

How can we achieve sustainable oceans?

Knowledge, international cooperation, and partnerships with civil society and business are all key.

But the single most important factor is political will.

The Climate Action Summit in New York highlighted the need to increase our level of ambition with regard to our climate targets.

I am glad that Chile is following this up as it prepares for the ‘Blue COP’ in Santiago in December.

Other important meeting places will be the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon next June, the 2020 Conference on Biological Diversity in Kunming, and the Our Ocean Conference in Palau next autumn.

Regional initiatives also have a vital role to play.

The Samoa Pathway event during UNGA, which I had the honor to moderate, was a timely wake up call for the threats to Small Island States.

Ocean-related action on climate change and the protection of marine biodiversity need to be included in new or enhanced nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement.

All our actions must be knowledge-based.

The UN Decade of Ocean Science will help us by providing ocean science, data and information to inform for our policies.

Integrated ocean management is a key element of knowledge-based development. 

The aim of this approach is to promote a viable ocean economy while at the same time ensuring a healthy and well-functioning marine environment and biodiversity.

We have experienced the benefits of integrated ocean management in Norwegian waters for the past twenty years.

I am therefore pleased to announce that Norway is establishing a new development programme called Oceans for Development.

The programme will provide support for sustainable fisheries and improved ocean governance in partner countries.

We want to share our experiences on integrated ocean management, with a view to promoting better ocean health and unlocking more wealth for the many people living off and by the oceans.

Another key factor for success is international cooperation: Global issues require global action.

Plastic litter can be transported over long distances by ocean currents.

Today, we are finding plastic litter in the Arctic and on the shores of remote Pacific islands.

If we are to solve this issue, we need a new global framework that will help us to pull in the same direction.

Ocean management cannot be achieved by governments alone. Society as a whole must also play its part.

Civil society and industry are often ahead of the curve when it comes to developing innovative solutions.

Previous Our Ocean conferences have resulted in more than 1000 voluntary commitments.

Our hope is that Our Ocean 2019 will build on these significant achievements.

There is still a lot of work to be done in order to reach SDG 14 – Life Below Water.

2020 is the deadline for four of the targets under this goal:

  • sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems;
  • end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;
  • conserve at least 10 % of coastal and marine areas; and
  • prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies.

Meeting these targets will also make it easier to reach other SDGs, such as ending poverty, ending hunger and ensuring good health and well-being.

My main message today is that this is possible if we recognise the connection between ocean health and ocean wealth.

We need ocean resources.

But the oceans can only be productive if they are healthy.

The Norwegian writer Alexander Kielland once called the ocean ‘the last healthy thing in a sick world’.

He wrote those words 139 years ago, well before climate change and marine plastic pollution were global concerns.

My hope is that both the oceans and the world as a whole remain healthy for generations to come.

This must be our common goal. 

And we can only achieve it by working together.

MIL OSI Europe News