By Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway.
A quick glance at the map will tell you why the oceans are so important for our two countries. The sea has always given us food, transport routes and strategic space. As seafaring nations, it has also been our gateway to the rest of the world. Due to their shipping industries, our countries have built up close maritime ties. Our relationship is one of both healthy rivalry and mutual respect. Maritime expertise is a key asset for both Norway and Greece. This is particularly true when it is applied in transformative ways to promote economic growth and safeguard the marine environment.
The oceans cover two-thirds of our planet, produce half of the oxygen we breathe, and absorb around one-third of our CO2 emissions. More than 90 percent of the world's trade is carried by sea.
Every day, billions of terabytes of data are transported through intercontinental subsea cables. Currently, around 5 percent of the food consumed globally comes from the oceans. However, there is still huge untapped potential in the oceans.
It is my ambition that Greece and Norway should cooperate more closely on ocean matters, both internationally and bilaterally. Our countries complement each other in various ways, and given today’s competitive environment, closer cooperation makes perfect sense. Greece is not only a major shipping nation, but it also has a growing aquaculture industry and is now developing its offshore oil and gas sector. Norway has valuable expertise and experience to share in this area. For both our countries, our expertise, combined with our proven ability to constantly evolve and innovate, is what gives us our competitive edge. In order to meet the challenges of the future, we need to continue to combine our expertise with innovation. Our expertise can be a force for change and transformation. We need to create synergies between industries like shipping, aquaculture, and offshore energy.
When Norway first struck oil in the North Sea in 1969, we knew very little about the petroleum sector. We could, however, draw on our experience from managing fisheries and running one of the world’s largest merchant fleets. Prudent resource management, transparent government, political stability and a willingness to take business risks enabled us to quickly exploit the resources in an efficient way. Now our experience and expertise from the offshore oil and gas sector are being used to transform our aquaculture industry. Promoting climate-friendly shipping is another important priority for the Norwegian government. Today, mainly drawing on expertise gained from our oil and gas activities in the North Sea, Norwegian shipyards are building gas-driven and electric ferries and sightseeing vessels.
The Government is launching an ambitious strategy for green shipping this year. Through funding for research and other incentives, we are encouraging a cross-sectoral approach – and Norway’s businesses are following our cue. For example, a Norwegian bank has established a separate ocean division for the aquaculture, shipping, and maritime industries, tailored to investors who are taking a cross-sectoral approach.
As we all know, the oceans are under threat from the effects of climate change, pollution, plastic waste, loss of biodiversity, and unsustainable use of marine resources. It is therefore vital that we work to combat these threats and ensure healthy and productive oceans. This work is also essential if we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the international legal framework for all our efforts in this area, and respect for the multilateral system and international rules and conventions is essential.
So is close international cooperation. It is precisely for this reason that Norwegian Prime Minister Solberg has established the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The panel is made up of serving world leaders, and aims to trigger, amplify and accelerate action to protect the oceans and increase their productivity.
The goal is to help build an ocean economy that will safeguard the oceans while optimising their value for humankind.
A key message from the work of the High-level Panel is that we need to improve the management of our sea and coastal areas. We need to take an integrated, science-based approach to ocean management.
In preparation for the future, the Norwegian Government has presented a strategy for ensuring sustainable growth in our ocean industries and a white paper on the place of the oceans in Norway's foreign and development policy. The Government’s ocean policy is both national and global in scope – and focuses on both job-creation and problem-solving. It covers a range of areas, from green technology, digital solutions and the use of marine resources to international diplomacy and the fight against illegal fishing and plastic pollution. Norway is playing a leading international role in the area of ocean affairs.
If Norway succeeds in its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022, the world’s oceans will be part of our agenda. In short, our ability to drive sustainable growth and innovation in ocean-based industries will be crucial to our future prosperity.
Whatever the future brings, Norway is committed to advancing the ocean agenda, together with Greece and other partners.
First published in Naftika Chronika in connection with a joint Maritime Conference organized by the Norwegian Embassy and Naftika Chronika, 26 and 27 March 2019