The European Commission has announced over €550 million of EU-funded initiatives to tackle global oceans challenges, at the Our Ocean Conference 2017 in Malta, co-hosted by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
The commitments announced in Malta made by the Commission and by other public and private actors from 112 countries around the world reached over €6 billion. The resources will be invested to strengthen the fight against marine pollution and enlarge protected areas, reinforce security of the oceans, foster blue economy initiatives and sustainable fisheries and intensify the EU efforts against climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals under Agenda 2030. Participants also announced the creation of new Marine Protected Areas spanning more than 2.5 million km², or more than half the size of the entire European Union.
The full list of over 400 commitments (36 from the EU, over 200 from third country governments, more than 100 from business and several others from NGOs, foundations, research institutes and international organizations) are available online.
High Representative/Vice-President of the EU Federica Mogherini said, “The sea is a global common. It is Our Ocean because it belongs to humanity, to each and every human being. We all have a responsibility to preserve what's common – to preserve it as a treasure and avoid that it turns into a threat. The European Union believes that a globalized world needs a more cooperative global governance. We believe in the power of diplomacy, we invest in it, we believe and invest in the power of common rules and international institutions. And it is difficult, actually impossible, to imagine a global governance without a cooperative oceans' governance.”
Marine pollution is a massive problem with over 10 million tonnes of litter annually ending up in the sea. By 2050, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish. Among the many initiatives put forward at the EU-hosted conference were:
- MULTINATIONAL: Major consumer-goods companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Marks & Spencer, MARS, Werner & Mertz and Carrefour all announced significant reductions in plastic use over the coming few years.
- AUSTRIA: Vienna-based chemicals and fertilizers group, Borealis, announced a €15 million investment in mechanical recycling of polyolefins, a substance found not least in packaging.
- UNITED KINGDOM: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation handed out the prestigious Circular Design Award to inspire innovation under its €8.5 million New Plastic Economy initiative. Sky announced €30 million over 5 years to create an Ocean Rescue Innovation Fund to develop ideas and technology to stop plastics entering the ocean.
- EU: The European Commission announced that it will phase out by end 2017 all single-use plastic cups in water fountains and vending machines in its buildings in Brussels.
Marine protection - Less than 5% of the world's marine and coastal areas are currently protected by law, even less is enforced. Yet, the 4th Our Ocean conference created important momentum and progress towards the UN's 2020-target of 10% protection.
- PACIFIC OCEAN: Chile, the Cook Islands, Indonesia, Niue and Palau committed to a number of additional marine protected areas.
- AFRICA: With a commitment of €70 million over the next 5 years, the MAVA Foundation will advance conservation projects, notably in the Mediterranean and West Africa.
- ATLANTIC/PACIFIC: Germany will lead an initiative with various partners, including World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), to reinforce marine protection in the South Pacific and South Atlantic.
- INDIAN OCEAN: The Oxford-led NEKTON project earmarks €30 million to boost sustainable management of the Indian Ocean.
- ACP: The EU committed €20 million to support the management of marine protected areas in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific and proposed fishing restrictions in sensitive areas of the Adriatic Sea.
- WORLD: The Sea Ranger initiative will establish the world's first maritime ranger service in cooperation with business partners.
Maritime security is the basis for global trade and prosperity, but it is under threat - from natural disasters, to piracy, trafficking and armed conflict. The EU-led conference secured a significant step toward safer seas.
- OUTER SPACE: Airbus announced plans to reinforce marine surveillance capacity by putting into orbit a new constellation of optical satellites from 2020, improving the anticipating threats.
- UNITED STATES: Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Inc. will invest €34 million 'SkyLight' detection system, availing cutting-edge technology in the fight against illegal fishing.
- INDIAN OCEAN: To improve maritime security and fight piracy, the EU announced inter alia €37.5 million for initiatives in East Africa and the Indian Ocean, including support for alternative livelihoods.
The blue economy is forecast to double towards 2030, from an estimated €1.3 trillion today. The theme was added by the EU to this year's edition of the Our Ocean conference to foster stronger synergies between sustainable and circular ocean solutions and economic growth and employment, including in developing, coastal communities.
- EU-SWEDEN: The EU with Sweden announced a €45 million Pacific-EU Marine Partnership, supporting sustainable development in the Pacific.
- FINANCE: Althelia Ecosphere, Aviva Investors, the BPCE Group, the European Investment Bank, Seventure Partners, Willis Towers Watson and the World Bank agreed to develop a set of sustainability principles that will guide investment and financing decisions in the blue economy, with a view to announcing these principles in 2018.
- FRANCE: The opening of the world's first tidal turbine plant by Naval Energies in Cherbourg, France, marks the start of industrial-scale renewable ocean energy.
- WORLD: Over the next six years, the World Bank will dedicate nearly €300 million to advance sustainable blue economy in developing countries, including Indian Ocean and Pacific regions.
- CARIBBEAN: Royal Caribbean Cruises in the coming years will partner closely with WWF to reach ambitious and measurable sustainability targets for its global operations.
Sustainable fisheries are a prerequisite for continued access to sufficient, nutritious seafood for coming generations.
- INSURANCE: AXA announced a code of conduct between global insurance industry leaders including Allianz AGCS and AXA prohibiting coverage to vessels involved in illegal fishing activity.
- FRANCE: The region of Brittany has partnered with science and industry to achieve maximum sustainable yields (MSY) for fisheries by 2020.
- PHILIPPINES: An important push towards science-based management of its main fishing grounds and an expansion of its Vessel Monitoring System to cover 35% of its registered fleet.
- SHARKS: The Global Partnership for Sharks and Rays announced plans to award over €6 million supporting shark and ray conservation globally.
- WEST AFRICA: The EU announced support of fisheries management in West Africa amounting to €15 million.
- UNITED STATES: Sustainable fishery also means decent labour conditions for fishermen. A €4.2 million program will aim to combat forced labour and human trafficking on fishing vessels in the Asia-Pacific region.
Climate change has very direct consequences for the oceans, with rising sea levels and increasing acidification among the most alarming.
- SPAIN: The world biggest fishing port, Vigo, announced 30% emission reductions by 2022, including through innovative algae capture of CO2.
- ARCTIC: An initiative led by the Clean Arctic Alliance aims at ending the use of heavy fuel (HFO) in the fragile Arctic environment.
- EU: WindEurope announced nearly €25 billion of investments in offshore wind energy towards 2019, whilst the European Union together with the International Maritime Organisation committed €10 million to promote energy-efficiency in maritime transport in developing countries.
The listed commitments are only examples. A full list of the commitments made during Our Ocean 2017 can be found here.
First Vice-President of the EU Frans Timmermans said, “The European Commission has demonstrated with concrete pledges its strong commitment to the sustainability, security and prosperity of our oceans. If they are at risk, so are we, for the oceans nourish our planet and our people, and they connect us to our partners around the world.”
Commissioner Karmenu Vella said, “Three years ago I was asked by President Juncker to define the EU's global ocean role. I think together we have delivered. Our policies on land, like our commitment to the circular economy and reduced plastic waste; and at sea, on marine pollution, on protected areas, and on harnessing the ocean's clean energy, clearly demonstrate this. The European Union is earning respect and inspiring action across the planet.”
Commissioner Neven Mimica said: "These two days have delivered on our Sustainable Development Goals ocean commitments. Small-scale fishermen around the world have a better chance of fishing safely, legally, and sustainably. Food chains are more secure. Coastal areas more protected. We are acting on the climate challenge. For many of our developing country partners, sustainable ocean governance is a question of survival. The road ahead is still long, but we are moving in the right direction.”
The Our Ocean Conference has brought together public and private actors from six continents, who are collectively committed to the cause of better ocean governance and the sustainable use of the oceans. EU commitments reach far beyond its geographical region, to support sustainable international ocean use worldwide, focusing in particular on developing countries.
For the first time, the Conference gathered significant commitments from the private sector, including Airbus, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Royal Caribbean Cruises, AXA, Sky and others.
Commitments will be tracked and reported at the next Our Ocean Conference in Indonesia in 2018.
Previous conferences, hosted by the governments of the United States (2014, 2016) and Chile (2015), have seen a wide range of commitments and billions of euros pledged.
The Our Ocean 2017 Conference addressed the themes of marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and climate change. This year, the European Commission introduced the themes of blue economy and maritime security. Our Ocean engaged participants from around the globe to make significant commitments. With a focus on high-level engagement, partnership and action, the EU continues to drive other international efforts, such as delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals under Agenda 2030. The conference also complements the EU's international ocean governance initiative, which set out an agenda for the future of the oceans around the world, proposing 50 concrete actions.