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14 world leaders commit to 100% sustainable ocean management to solve global challenges, and call for more countries to join

Date: 4 December 2020

On 2 December 2020, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) put forward a new ocean action agenda, paired with bold commitments and new research. The 14 world leaders of the Ocean Panel committed to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean area under their national jurisdiction by 2025, guided by Sustainable Ocean Plans. The countries will bring a holistic approach to ocean management that balances protection, production and prosperity to nearly 30 million sq km of national waters - an area the size of Africa. The Ocean Panel also urged leaders of coastal and ocean states across the globe to join the commitment to 100% sustainable management so that all Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are sustainably managed by 2030.

The leaders of Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal and Ocean Panel co-chairs Norway and Palau today released the Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy: A Vision for Protection, Production and Prosperity. These world leaders understand that the ocean is central to life on earth, peoples’ livelihoods and the economy, but also recognize that the ocean’s health is at risk from pressures such as pollution, overfishing and climate change. This is why, two years ago, Ocean Panel members set out to develop a transformative set of recommendations to deliver a sustainable ocean economy that would benefit people everywhere and effectively protect the ocean. The result is a new ocean action agenda that – if achieved – could help produce as much as 6 times more food from the ocean, generate 40 times more renewable energy, lift millions of people out of poverty, and contribute one-fifth of the GHG emissions reductions needed to stay within 1.5°C.

“For too long, we have perceived a false choice between ocean protection and production. No longer. Building a sustainable ocean economy is one of the greatest opportunities of our time,” said Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Ocean Panel Co-chair.

“At a time when we are already looking to recover from the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we understand how vulnerable we are to financial shocks and health crises,” said Tommy Remengesau Jr., President of Palau and Ocean Panel Co-chair. “We need the ocean more than ever to drive a sustainable, long-term recovery. The ocean is our past, our present and our future. We do not have to choose between ocean protection and production; we can have both for a healthy, prosperous and equitable tomorrow if we properly manage our impacts upon it.”

Leading by example, the Ocean Panel countries each committed to put a Sustainable Ocean Plan in place by 2025. The Ocean Panel also supports a global target to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, where each country’s contribution will depend on national circumstances. In addition to the 100% sustainable management commitment, there are 74 priority actions detailed in the Transformations that achieved consensus from the 14 countries. The recommendations focus on five critical areas: ocean wealth, ocean health, ocean equity, ocean knowledge and ocean finance. Together, they point to where the world should be in the next decade, when the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development conclude. The Ocean Panel commits to deliver on these actions by 2030 or sooner.

The Ocean Panel’s bold yet pragmatic recommendations are underpinned by an unprecedented scientific knowledge base for action, including 20 commissioned reports and blue papers. The new report released today, Ocean Solutions that Benefit People, Nature and the Economy, seeks to define a new solutions-based relationship between humanity and the ocean. The report finds that achieving a sustainable ocean economy is possible and beneficial, but it will not happen if business as usual continues. The paper identifies five key pathways to achieve the transition.

“The 14 countries on the Ocean Panel are listening to science, learning from each other and working together. That’s a powerful combination. If their historic commitments are implemented, the resulting successes will snowball into an avalanche of smart actions by other key players – enabling people, nature and the economy to thrive,” said Hon. Jane Lubchenco, PhD., Distinguished University Professor at Oregon State University and Co-chair of the Ocean Panel Expert Group.

As the world looks to recover from COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout, the ocean can bring economic relief and make communities stronger. Ocean Panel research shows that a healthier ocean is a smart investment: every $1 invested in sustainable ocean solutions can yield at least $5 in benefits, including social, health, economic and environmental benefits. Another Ocean Panel-commissioned paper finds that including the ocean economy in recovery and stimulus measures – especially with the pandemic’s devastating impacts on coastal workers and sectors – would have huge benefits. The research identifies immediate opportunities for a blue stimulus that can create jobs, provide economic relief and push the economy towards resilience and sustainability.

“We need better management and sustainable use of the ocean’s resources to foster not only a green, but also a blue recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Efforts are already underway to accelerate, scale and finance the new ocean action agenda. This includes multi-stakeholder coalitions focused on ocean renewable energy, ocean accounting, shipping decarbonization, tourism and blue food. The Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC), the first coalition to publicly launch, published the Power of Our Ocean report to support governments across the world in scaling development of ocean-based renewable energy.

The Ocean Panel Transformations on the eve of the Ocean Decade

The Transformations are released on the eve of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”, for short) which will start on 1 January 2021.

Throughout the work of the Ocean Panel, the contribution of ocean science to a sustainable ocean economy has been emphasized and the Panel recognises that ‘the Ocean Decade represents a unique opportunity to enhance the scientific understanding of the ocean.’

The Ocean Decade will help to generate the knowledge needed for science-informed policies and actions, thus playing a key, complementary role in enabling the actions formulated by the Ocean Panel. In early 2021, a new report will be released by the Ocean Decade, further analysing the Ocean Panel recommendations and articulating how transformative science actions can be designed through the Decade framework.

Norway announces support to the Ocean Decade

As part of its voluntary contributions to UNESCO for 2020-2021, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), pledged NOK 20 million to support the work of the IOC in fostering scientific cooperation for the management and protection of the ocean and coastal zones, as well as its leading role in coordinating the Ocean Decade.

Further to this, Norway has recently announced the design of a national plan of investments in ten priority areas for ocean science in the next decade, relevant to Norway and for which Norway can contribute substantial expertise also to global research.  

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For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière, Head of the Marine Policy and Regional Coordination Section and Ocean Decade Focal Point (j.barbiere@unesco.org)