Thank you, Chair,
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to congratulate your Excellences Ambassadors Korneliou, and Meza-Cuadra on being appointed Co-Chairs of the eighteenth meeting of the United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and commend you for the work you have done in preparing this meeting.
I would also like to thank the Secretary-General and the Secretariat for their contributions to facilitate these discussions, such as preparing the first part of the report of the Secretary-General on developments and issues relating to ocean affairs and the law of the sea.
Nearly one and a half year ago in Paris, we recognized the need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change, and undertook ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. The Paris Agreement entered into force in November last year, and today already has 145 parties.
The Secretary-General’s report underlines that oceans and coastal systems are particularly affected by two key drivers linked to climate change and related changes in the atmosphere: Ocean warming and ocean acidification. The lion’s share of the heating created by climate change is absorbed by our oceans, and although the oceans are also slowing global warming to the benefit of humankind by also taking up carbon from the atmosphere, this latter process leads to the seawater continuously becoming more and more acidic.
The Arctic is one of the areas where the effects of climate change are particularly tangible, despite the fact that the anthropogenic sources of the problem are overwhelmingly to be found in other regions. As an Arctic State, Norway experiences first-hand the very visible impacts climate change have in these areas. Over the last decades, the sea ice thickness and extent, land ice volume, and spring snow cover have decreased. Near-surface permafrost has continued to warm. The conditions for all living species in these areas undergo significant changes.
As the Arctic warms and sea-ice and snow-cover retracts, the bare ground and open water absorb more heat from the sun and amplify warming further. This feedback is an important reason why the Arctic warms at twice the rate of the global average. Together with the release of trapped greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost, it also amplifies global warming.
A new scientific assessment of climate change in the Arctic, by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), concludes that the Arctic is now shifting — rapidly and in unexpected ways — into a new state.
According to this report, the Arctic Ocean could be largely ice-free in summer only twenty years from now. The study also suggests that current estimates of future sea-level rise by may be too low due to more rapid melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice-sheets and glaciers. It also warns that changes in the Arctic may be affecting weather in mid latitudes, even influencing the Southeast Asian monsoon.
Low lying coastal areas and island states are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts on the oceans. Rising sea levels, increasing number and severity of extreme weather events and threats to food security all constitute grave threats to these states, and the capacity for climate change adaptation and mitigation are in some instances limited. The Norwegian government intends to strengthen its cooperation with particularly vulnerable island developing states and to build partnerships e.g. in promoting sustainable use of the oceans.
The only real action to reduce these risks in the longer term is to reduce global emissions as a matter of urgency. The problem must be addressed at its sources. The most important action is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Broad participation in the Paris Agreement and its effective implementation is paramount.
Norway is committed to reducing emissions by at least 40 % by 2030 compared to the 1990 level. We are also investing in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, working with Latin American, African, and Asian partners, supporting climate financing for vulnerable nations, including LDCs and SIDS, via multilateral mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund and supporting the promotion of renewable energy in developing countries. Norway will also take Initiatives to strengthen the multilateral dialogue with partner countries and organizations, such as ASEAN, with the goal of turning shipping more green.
Environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change, such as coastal inundation and erosion, saltwater intrusion, degradation of ecosystems and agricultural land, destruction of infrastructure and property, migration of fish stocks and coral bleaching also combine with other anthropogenic impacts, such as overfishing, marine pollution and poor ocean management, exacerbating challenges relating to food security, livelihoods and the development of communities.
The combined global effects are inherently uncertain, but we know that the risk are high and rising, depending on our efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, we need further research and better projections in order in order to better understand how these problems are interrelated and how they can be mitigated. Norway will work to ensure that climate change, rising sea levels and ocean acidification are integrated parts of the work of relevant international institutions, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
In sustainable development goal 14 target 3 the international community agreed to minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels. Norway will continue supporting research on the extent and effects of acidification providing knowledge and a better foundation for taking the necessary global actions.
As we will hear more about in the coming days, so-called “blue forests” such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, saltwater marshes and kelp forests are valuable through their provisioning of multiple ecosystem services, of which carbon capturing and sequestration is just one. They also provide protection against coastal erosion, storms and flooding, as well as habitats for juvenile fish and shrimps to thrive in. They improve coastal water quality by trapping sediments and nutrients. They can provide local revenue from tourism, as well as building materials or ingredients for medicines.
The value of coastal blue forests is being recognized as important by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), not least due to the ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon. Norway contributes to raising global awareness and increasing knowledge on the role of blue forests in capturing and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other important ecosystem services, and support partners in The Norwegian Blue Forests Network.
Norway supports projects directed at improving the management of blue forests and involving local coastal communities in fighting poverty by promoting sustainable use. Norway will also increase support to knowledge and capacity building in partner countries, and prioritize research into the role of kelp forests in the global carbon cycle.
I very much look forward to the discussions and expert panels in the coming days. I am convinced we will identify issues and generate new ideas that will be relevant in the forthcoming consultations on the annual resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries.