12 November 2016, Marrakech – Speech by European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries at Oceans Action Day at COP22 on “Oceans and Climate: Solutions to the Core Issues”
Your Royal Highness, Your Serene Highness, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, the entry into force of the Paris Agreement is a historic moment. It is also our chance to give the ocean its rightful place in the fight against climate change. Oceans are the unsung heroes of our planet’s climate. But now they are under severe pressure. Sea levels are rising. Acidity is threatening corals and shellfish. Unsustainable use of our oceans is eroding the growth base of our blue economy.
We have all endorsed the Paris Agreement. And we have all signed up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We have promised to combat climate change, and to use our oceans sustainably. Now it is time to turn those pledges into action. That is why two days ago I launched a new initiative on international ocean governance. It is a list of 50 actions to manage our global oceans better. A manual to make our oceans safer, more secure, cleaner and more sustainably managed.I would like to highlight three main areas where we want to make a difference.
The first is ensuring a strong, comprehensive set of rules – and making sure that everybody plays by them. This means implementing and enforcing the global instruments we already have. It means improving coordination between various ocean bodies. And it means closing legal gaps:
- For instance by developing, under UNCLOS, a legally binding instrument to protect marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- Or adopting international rules to prevent unregulated fisheries in the Arctic, which climate change is making more accessible.
Second, we must protect the role of marine and coastal ecosystems in reducing the impacts of climate change.
- Therefore, the European Commission will promote the inclusion of ocean‑related action in the national follow-up to the commitments under the Paris Agreement.
- By 2020, we will also launch international public‑private partnerships aimed at restoring, adapting or developing ‘green blue infrastructure’.
Third, we need more scientific knowledge. We need to better understand how climate change affects the oceans. Only then can we make the right decisions. So I welcome the IPCC’s decision to produce, by 2018, a report on oceans and the cryosphere and the effects of climate change. Building on this report, the European Commission will announce further international action to deal with the fall-out from ocean warming, sea-level rise and acidification.
Ladies and gentlemen, the European Union is committed to managing our oceans more responsibly. We are not alone in this. The “Strategic Action Roadmap on Oceans and Climate”, prepared ahead of today’s meeting, shares many of our views. I am pleased to see we are pushing in the same direction. We must do all we can to sustain that push. That is why I am happy to announce that the European Union is hosting the fourth Our Ocean conference in Malta on 5-6 of October 2017. I hope to see many of you there and to hear your commitments on how to conserve and sustainably use our ocean.
These commitments will be important contributions to our joint efforts to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
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