During the Our Ocean Conference in Palau, the EU renewed its pledges toward international ocean governance. Presenting a list of 44 commitments for the 2020-2022 period for an amount of almost €1 billion, the EU has brought forward its most important commitments ever offered during an Our Ocean Conference, in terms of value.
A platform for ocean conservation
The Our Ocean Conference was originally launched in 2014 by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. It was initiated as an annual international opportunity for countries, civil society, science and industry to commit to ocean protection. Specifically, it was envisioned as a platform mobilising concrete support and funding for the world’s most pressing ocean conservation issues. Previous events took place in the US (2014 and 2016), Chile (2015), Malta (2017), Indonesia (2018) and Norway (2019). Throughout these six conferences, participants made more than 1,400 commitments worth approximately $91.4 billion. This, as result, has led to the protection of at least five million square miles of ocean.
We’re starting now finally to act with the urgency that the moment demands, even as we understand that we have to accelerate even more.
The 7th Our Ocean Conference
This 7th edition took place in Palau, one of the most ocean-dependent and climate change-prone regions, on April 13-14 2022. It was the first time a small island developing state had hosted the conference. This lent the event a unique perspective and focus, remarking the intrinsic importance of healthy oceans to the well-being and prosperity of coastal communities, and the crucial role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in tackling climate change and ocean crises.
For me, like many Palauans, and millions of people from ocean communities around the world, our connection to the ocean is very personal. Our lives, cultures and economies are inherently shaped by the ocean as a provider and protector. It’s our home, it’s our lifeline, it’s what makes us who we are.
The theme chosen for this year’s edition was “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity”. Global partners were drawn to identify solutions to sustainably manage marine resources, increase the ocean’s resilience to climate change and safeguard its health for generations to come. International delegates representing governments, businesses, academic and research institutions, civil society, youth leaders and philanthropic organisations announced 410 major commitments worth more than $16 billion to improve the health, productivity and protection of the world’s oceans. Overall, the number of the total commitments is more than 1,800, with a related worth higher than $108 billion.
The EU commitment to protect the ocean
More and more conscious of the challenges facing the ocean, the EU is putting a stronger focus on protecting and restoring it. During the conference, the EU made 44 commitments in all fields covered by this international event for an amount of almost €1 billion. This includes marine protected areas, tackling marine pollution, confronting the ocean-climate crisis, creating sustainable blue economies, advancing sustainable small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, and achieving a safe, just and secure ocean. EU citizens will be able to track the progress of the implementation of the EU commitments through a specific tool.
The sum the EU is committing today is significant but not as significant as the role that the ocean plays for our very existence. It provides us with clean air, regulates the climate, hosts a large part of biodiversity on Earth and is key for our economy. The ocean is bringing all these benefits to us and we need to protect it. Our future depends upon it.
Almost €500 million over the period 2021-2023 will go to research, development and innovation under the Horizon programme. A contribution of €55 million was allocated to strengthen marine environmental monitoring over two years, through its satellite monitoring programme. Efforts will go into addressing the ocean and waters to achieve climate neutrality and restore nature. This will contribute to achieving the protection of 30% of the European sea area as stated under the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030.
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