Ambassador Gjelstad's speech at the breakfast seminar #BeatMarineLitter

At the occation of World Environment Day 2018, the Embassy arranged a breakfast seminar with Helmepa to raise awareness about marine pollution.

I am both privileged and honored to open this breakfast symposium on maritime and shipping activities in an environmental context. This topic is more relevant than ever. And I am particularly happy to see a large part of both Greek and Norwegian shipping industries being present here this morning.

 

Maritime issues and the shipping industry have to a large extent defined the relationship between Greece and Norway throughout history. The ocean space has in fact tied our countries close together. Our two countries have been shipping superpowers for centuries. Long coastlines, islands and marine resources have shaped both the way we live and the outlook we have.

 

We know a lot about the importance of maritime industries for the national economy. And we know what it takes to be both partners and competitors within a globalized environment. But we also do recognize that the maritime prospects will be even more important when we look into the future.

 

The Ocean Space is emerging as one of the largest and most promising global resource bases, offering vast business opportunities for a whole range of Ocean Industries. Key resources will continue to come from the oceans, and the shipping sector should therefore be maintained as the most cost effective and environmentally sound way of doing long-distance transport. 

To spell it out clearly, OECD has stated in one of its recent reports (“The Ocean Economy toward 2030”) that the Ocean economy has a potential of doubling its contribution to global value creation by 2030, to at least USD 3000 billion in annual business volume.

 

This global resource base must be taken well care off and protected. The Ocean space is a gold mine, and we should be careful not to harm or impair it by reckless behavior. Ignorance or irresponsibility will in the end be self-defeating, undermining the long-term interest we all have in viable and healthy Oceans. Therefore, we should take collective measures and step up efforts to develop an International Ocean Governance Regime to regulate the exploration and utilization of Ocean-resources worldwide. It is paramount that the marine ecology remains sustainable when at the same time ocean industries are encouraged to operate at a larger scale. Economic growth must go hand in hand with sustainability.

 

To assist in this endeavour, Norway’s Prime Minister Solberg announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, that she would establish an international High-level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy.  The Panel will consist of heads of government from a selected group of coastal countries around the world. Its objective is to increase international understanding of howthe Ocean Economy, based on a sustainable use of the Oceans, can play a key role in meeting the world’s most vital needs in the years to come.

 

 

Another promising initiative is the UN Global Compact on Oceans; a global business action platform to discuss in detail the sustainability and resource management issue. This Platform will be launched in New York later this month, and will be headed by Sturla Henriksen, the previous CEO of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association. I am happy to see Mr. Henriksen present today as the key-note speaker, and I will introduce him to you shortly.

This platform rests on the assumption that the industry itself must be part of the global effort to strengthen governance and to improve the standards for how we do business. And my Government stands fully behind this initiative.

 

Please let me now be more specific.

Marine littering and micro-plastic pollution has become a topical and a most pressing global issue lately. This problem requires global solutions. We know that in every minute, 15 tons of plastic goes right into the ocean. Millions of tons of plastic waste flow around in the oceans, and are carried across the globe with the currents. This affects livelihoods, ecosystems, economic activity, and potentially the human health.

 

It is urgent to find effective ways to clean the oceans from microplastic. At the same time, we know that more than 80% of the plastic that ends up in the oceans comes from activities on-shore. So, this is also about human behavior: our pattern of consumption, how we use and re-use, and how we manage the waste.

 

Combatting marine litter and microplastics is a key priority for the Norwegian government, as it is a global responsibility for the international society. There is a need for much stronger global efforts if we collectively are to make progress. There is no time to loose. Promt actions are required. At the Third United Nations Environment Assembly, the member states encouragingly endorsed Norway's resolution for increased measures and a zero-vision for further discharge of plastics into the oceans.

 

To make necessary progress, governmental actions and international cooperation are key, but the innovative solutions have to come from the industries themselves. The ocean industries have a direct and economic interest in healthy and sustainable oceans. Long term profits rests on this fact, and the quest for sustainable economic activity at sea will open up further business opportunities. 

 

I am therefore happy to see representatives of a significant number of companies this morning, many of whom are working on innovative solutions and cutting edge technologies to clean up marine littering, and even recycle it, not to say measures in making the shipping industry both cleaner and greener.

 

In Norway, it is encouraging to observe entrepreneurs making new products out of ocean plastic. It is also highly encouraging to learn about the results of the Kongsberg’s-Start-Up-Extreme-competition last year, where students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim presented a model for Autonomous Underwater Vessels that can identify and pick up litter most effectively. They also produced a model for collecting and sorting plastic in rivers. We need more of this new entrepreneurial energy and vitality that marry economic prospects with environmental demands.

 

We have to bear in mind that the green economy has not only become profitable; this segment of the global economy is the one with the strongest growth rate and the brightest future. The new climate economy is about to become the major driver of the modern global economy. And not to be part of this trend can easily lock you into economic and technological stagnation.

 

Also worth mentioning in this connection, is the self-imposed restrictions that some shipping companies in Norway have introduced to meet the challenges from micro-plastic littering. One such company is the Norwegian flagship cruizeline, Hurtigruten. This cruise-liner is one of the largest in the world. Daily it brings passengers and commercial cargo along the western and northern coast of Norway between the cities of Bergen and Kirkenes, a coastline of more than 780 miles.

 

This company has set an example with the goal of becoming plastic free from July this summer. As one of the first major companies, Hurtigruten has recently banned all unnecessary single-use plastic. By early July this year, every single consumer item derived from plastic, such as plastic cups and straws, coffee lids and plastic bags will be removed from the ships. This is a big deal. For the plastic cups only, the estimated annual consumption volume is more than 300 000 pieces, which totals approximately 5 tons. The goal is to become the world’s first plastic free shipping company.

 

It is also important to bring the civil society on-board. As an incentive for them to participate, the Norwegian government has for this year allocated

8 million USD to the National Grant Scheme for measures to be taken against marine littering. NGOs, various groups of volunteers, small businesses and information centres can apply to cover costs related to clean-up actions, information campaigns as well as various preventive measures.

 

We are also considering how to improve the coordination and organisation in the best possible way to maximise the effect from clean-up activities.  We have established a centre in Northern Norway that will gather knowledge, and boost the capacity to develop more effective national clean-up efforts. 

 

Knowledge-based decision-making is key, and the Norwegian government is prioritizing initiatives to increase knowledge and competence within this area, including research efforts on mapping, monitoring and waste-management.

 

Clean oceans is also about reducing emissions and using more environmental fuel. In Norway, the first electric ferry, Ampere, built by the Norwegian Shipyard Fjellstrand in collaboration with Siemes and Norled, has been running commercially for more than two years. Two more ferries have now been put into traffic in Gloppen, making this the world’s first electric ferry connection. Seven more ferries are on order and in the pipeline. Ferry companies in Norway are now in a process of modernizing their fleets, as the Norwegian authorities have required zero-emission technology solutions for the coming years.

 

Such a transition could also happen in Greece if the political will is there. With all your islands and your high number of ferry crossings every year, it is tempting to look into the option of developing an emission-free maritime pilot to cover the sea-route between Pireus and some of the islands. This to confirm that a de-carbonized maritime transportation solution within the Aegean archipelago is more than a dreamwork.

 

By concluding, I would underline my interest and curiosity in listening to the Greek experts and their recommendations for how we best can deal with environmental threats to the maritime ecosystem.  

 

Dr. Vassilios Mamaloukas-Frangoulis wil speak on the important interconnection between waste-management and environmentally clean-up.

 

Dr. Angeliki Kosomopolou from the Laskaridis Foundation will highlight methodologies to sustain a circular economy, by implementing a strategy for reduce-recycle-and reuse.

 

And Mrs Christiana Prekezes, the executive coordinator of  HELMEPA,

(the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association) will elaborate on how to create awareness and motivation across the whole society to combat marine littering. We are very proud to have HELMEPA as a co-organizer of this event. HELMEPA has worked on ocean clean-up long before this topic became the big global issue of today.

 

But before these excellent experts will enter the podium, I would like to introduce to you Sturla Henriksen, head of the UN Global Compact on Ocean, to give us the global perspective on growth and sustainability of the Ocean Space. The floor is yours Sturla,

 

And thank you all for being here today, on the occasion of both The World Environment Day and Posidonia, and for showing your commitment and interest in this important topic!