UN Ocean Conference 2022

National Statement by Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide to the 2nd Plenary meeting of 2022 UN Conference in Lisbon, Portugal 28 June 2022.

Once upon a time the people on the planet were few and the ocean was wide. We took it for granted and we believed that we could continue to over exploit it for ever and ever. But now we know better. The ocean is actually not that big, we are a large amount of people, and our activities are intense. We have to stop taking the ocean for granted. The science is very clear, we have reached a tipping point in the ocean’s health and the life it fosters.

And these are facts. And while we politicians sometimes argue, you can’t really argue with physics. Physics is real. We have real insights. Science and knowledge have taught us things that we now have to lay as the foundation of the work that we are doing together. What this all tells us is that urgent action is needed to save, preserve, and revitalize our common ocean.

Norway is coming to Lisbon with concrete commitments, recommendations and solutions that can contribute to stopping the decline of the ocean’s health. The international community can and must do better to protect and use their resources far more sustainably.

Some months ago, we were gathered in Nairobi for UNEA-5 of which I had the pleasure of being the president. And I’m very proud of our collective achievement in agreeing to negotiate a treaty to end plastic pollution. And I urged those negotiation the treaty to remember that while we still wait for the minuscule legal detail, the framework is there. Its going to be a legally binding treaty and it’s going to be from source to sea. It’s a about all aspects of the entire plastic economy.

And there’s no reason to wait. Because that we know that whether you are a business or a country, you can just start acting as if the treaty is already there, to make sure that all plastic that is produced is recyclable and eco-designed, start building recycling plants, start ensuring that you have good collection methods and of course also start looking for alternatives. Only in that way we will be able to curb the scourge of plastic pollution.

The high seas are under increasing threat from overfishing, climate change and pollution. This is why we must rapidly conclude on a robust treaty for the governance of the high seas based on research and science.

As a member of the High Ambition Coalition, Norway is actively contributing to the negotiations under the Law of the Sea Convention on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marin Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). These are immensely important.

The work of the Ocean Panel has shown us that we can build an ocean economy where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand. Its hard, but its doable and we know that it can be done.

If managed properly, the ocean can play a crucial role in providing for food, jobs and in taking up the carbon and heat we produce. The Ocean Panel has once again taken a science-based approach in developing an ambitious ocean agenda guided by Sustainable Ocean Plans. Norway encourages all coastal and ocean states to join in the ambition to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean under national jurisdiction.

The ocean holds the key to an equitable, prosperous, and sustainable planet. Let me give you three illustrations of this. Firstly, aquatic food is vital for food security. The current disruption in global food exports amplify even further an already challenging situation. We must focus more on aquatic food if we are to reach SDG 2.

A healthy ocean is essential to make sustainable fisheries and aquaculture deliver sufficient, safe, and nutritious food. At the previous UN Ocean Conference in 2017, Norway committed to take the lead, establishing a network for sustainable aquatic food systems. We commit to continue this work as part of the Global Action Network.

Secondly, blue carbon can mitigate climate change. Blue forests can also play a vital role for food security and in fighting poverty. Norway actively support blue forest ecosystem projects. We aim to improve management and involve coastal communities all over the world in fighting poverty and promoting sustainable use.

Finally, green shipping and the decarbonatization of shipping is something we put massive effort in to. It’s actually possible to relatively swiftly move to future fuels. Hydrogen, ammonia, battery electric. But we need to have the production, the infrastructure, and the ships in place.

The oceans can also be a source of energy, with a massive emphasis on ocean wind, and in Norway we are planning to build ocean wind farms which will produce as much electricity as we currently produce and use in Norway.

We need to scale up our ambitions at home, and globally at the International Maritime Organization, to further reduce the environmental impacts of shipping and other related activities. Let me conclude by saying that this is a part of the task of our century, the task our generation. Let’s make sure to use this conference to commit to each other to continuing to protect, produce, and prosper from the ocean also in the years and generations to come.