September 21, 2022

To Address the World’s Most Urgent Challenges, Look to the Ocean

News Source: IISD

Author(s): Jonas Gahr Støre, Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., and Justin Trudeau

This week, world leaders have gathered at the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) against the backdrop of conflict, the global energy crisis, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change impacts. Yet there is hope. Our message is clear: the ocean is an underestimated solution to many of the critical issues facing people and the planet. From addressing hunger to poverty to climate change, the ocean is on our side — if we, alongside our fellow leaders, urgently act to protect and sustainably manage this vital life source.

Notably, one of the most pressing issues at the UN General Assembly is how countries can put the SDGs back on track after conflict and COVID-19 have jeopardized hard-won gains and as climate change-fueled extreme weather events increasingly wreak havoc on communities. The 17 interlinked SDGs are the UN’s shared blueprint to work toward peace and prosperity by 2030, and ocean solutions can help achieve them. However, SDG 14 – the ocean Goal – remains the most underfunded SDG yet.

Over 3 billion people rely on protein from the sea, offshore wind energy is becoming more widely available, and projections show transitioning to a sustainable ocean economy can provide major opportunities as every USD 1 invested in ocean actions yields at least USD 5 in global benefits. Ocean solutions can also help fight the climate crisis and put countries on the path toward a 1.5°C future.

As members of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy we are proud to join 14 other world leaders in pioneering ocean solutions that help our countries build a more sustainable economy. The Panel’s Ocean Action Agenda is aimed at sustainably managing 100% of the ocean area under member countries’ national jurisdictions. This is aligned with the SDGs and sets out five pillars – health, wealth, knowledge, equity, and finance – that are critical to transforming how we produce, protect, and prosper from the ocean.

Ocean Panel countries are leading real change. The member nations are showcasing the breadth of ocean-based solutions that are turning commitments into action and improving people’s lives. Recent data show that these actions are helping address all 17 SDGs.

In Canada, we are making historic progress on protecting our waters, going from less than 1% of our marine and coastal areas protected in 2015, to over 14% today, halfway to our goal of 30% protected areas by 2030. This goes along with our CAD 3.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, which is focused on everything from better managing marine traffic to emergency response, all while working in partnership with Indigenous communities. As we welcome the world to Montreal for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in December, we will be calling for this kind of ambition globally, too.

In Palau, 85% of our food is imported, but with the Keled A Ngercheled campaign we’re working to increase local production and sourcing of food to help improve national food security, reduce reliance on imports, and support local communities. This campaign also helps us tackle hunger, reduce consumption-based emissions, and support local businesses, all through championing local production.

In Norway, we are using the ocean to tackle climate change by opening up areas for offshore wind power. The aim is to generate new clean energy from the ocean on par with the amount of electricity currently produced on shore in Norway by 2040. The project will see approximately 1,500 turbines in operation, helping to create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and provide affordable electricity for homes and businesses.

These projects are proof that transitioning to a sustainable ocean economy can help countries secure a more prosperous future while addressing poverty, inequality, and other SDGs. We must step up this focus on ensuring that our ocean actions address poverty and inequality. Doing so will require greater collaboration between public and private sector bodies to attract the necessary finance for projects. It will also require a laser focus on ensuring that ocean action improves the welfare of those who rely on it — by supporting communities’ food security and providing good jobs.

While progress is being made, we must not lose sight of the urgent need to accelerate and scale action as the climate and ecological emergencies continue to intensify. We must shift global perspectives to rapidly unlock the ocean’s opportunities and benefits and to meet global goals in achieving a more equitably prosperous and just world.