Your serene Highness, President, Vice-President, Honourable Prime Minister, Ambassadors, Director-General, guardians and friends of the ocean,
To say it is a great honour for me to speak here today on World Oceans Day is an understatement. I could not miss this opportunity to contribute to a better ocean, on this, World Oceans Day.
Having listened to the previous speakers, I do not need to remind us of the importance of the oceans. We are all convinced of their importance.
In the EU we have also recognised their key role not only as climate regulators, absorbers of CO2, and providers of oxygen, but also as a source of renewable energy, nutritious food and medicine, as a core asset for marine and coastal tourism and maritime transport.
We have realised in particular that if our oceans are not healthy, our economy also falls ill.
If pressure on the seas – including from climate change – erodes our marine ecosystems, we are also eroding the basis of sustainable blue growth and the future of coastal communities.
It is also important to note that if knowledge about the oceans is not there or not shared, policy makers and businesses cannot take the right decisions.
Internally in the EU, we have therefore decided to take action:
We have put in place a robust set of environmental rules to protect the marine environment, to ensure a sustainable use of marine resources and to help oceans continue to play their role in buffering climate change.
We are using a combination of financial support and regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to promote renewable energy, to reduce energy use and to improve resource efficiency. This will also soften pressure on marine ecosystems. Our ambitious proposal on the circular economy, to be adopted in the Autumn, will further contribute to that.
We all developed a unique piece of legislation that requires countries across Europe to plan the use of maritime space. This allows countries to predict and manage the cumulative impact of maritime activities on the seas. It also gives certainty to potential investors.
We drew up an EU-level strategy to boost sustainable blue growth: a strategy which integrates the protection of the marine environment and the promotion of the blue economy.
The EU and its MS together are spending about 2 billion € per year on marine and maritime research. We are putting in place mechanisms for scientists to cooperate better and share more information. We are also giving better access to maritime information for free to researchers.
Meanwhile the EU is also acting externally. Better together is not a slogan - it is a commitment. We have realised that the marine environment does not respect national boundaries. That the maritime challenges and opportunities we are facing in the EU are the same globally. That we have a global shared responsibility. And this is the reason for the need of a global alliance. We have global issues needing global actions and solutions.
So let me give you two examples of what we are doing to reach out internationally:
Last Thursday, I have launched an international public consultation on ocean governance.
We are reaching out to all stakeholders – international organisations, state actors, the research community, academia, NGOs, businesses and others. We are asking them, and also asking you:
1) Is the current international ocean governance framework effective and adequate to ensure that the oceans are used sustainably?
2) And if not, what needs to be done to make it more effective?
I would very much welcome your views on that.
I mentioned before the link between oceans and climate change and I am very grateful to UNESCO for emphasizing this link at today's event. The recommendations put forward just now will no doubt raise further awareness to this connection.
As you know, the EU is fully committed to reaching an inclusive, legally binding climate agreement in December.
And I would like to reaffirm at this stage, our intention to continue strengthening our cooperation for better science and a healthier ocean.
The EU was the first major economy to submit its contribution to the new agreement. A handful of others, including the US, Canada, Russia and Mexico have followed.
Given the responsibilities and capabilities of all parties, we are looking for contributions that are as ambitious as possible.
The efforts and ambition of the G20 countries will be decisive since they account for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Here I would like to stress that the voice of Small Island Developing States also carries enormous authority in the negotiations. I am therefore very happy to share this session with their representatives. I am fully aware of your vulnerability and I commend you for the leadership you have consistently demonstrated on many issues.
Coming from Malta, I too was born and bred in a small island state, with all the passion for and dependence on the sea around us.
Let me conclude by wishing France, the Country which will host the Conference in December, and all of us, a successful outcome. Let us all work to ensure that healthy oceans and their productive ecosystems help keeping this blue planet the wonderful place that it is.
And talkling about the Blue Planet, today is World Ocean Day. Last Friday it was World Environment Day. The Oceans and the environment are so close on the calendar. Let us engage so that they are just as close in the real world as they are on the calendar.
Thank you all.