President, Ministers, Ambassador, Mr Secretary, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. I am glad to see many of you again, six months on from the UNESCO World Oceans Day.

As European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, I am happy to see a whole day dedicated to oceans at COP 21.

You all know the figures and the facts about the oceans and their role in managing climate change. And no one is better placed to understand the threats facing the oceans and ocean communities than the representatives of Small Island Developing States.

These threats – sea-level rise, acidification, marine pollution, illegal and overfishing, pressure on marine ecosystems, just to name a few – not only limit the oceans' ability to manage climate change. They also erode the growth base of a sustainable blue economy.  

To reduce these threats and fully exploit the potential of the blue economy, we need to do four things:

First and foremost we need an agreement in Paris to keep warming below two degrees. Minister Fabius, I am sure I speak for us all in wishing you a successful outcome for COP21.

Second, we need healthy seas: if we want to limit the negative effects of climate change, we must reduce the other pressures weighing on the ocean environment.

In the EU we have put in place robust legislation to protect the marine environment and to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources.

Across Europe, countries are now obliged to plan the use of maritime space, so they can manage the impact of maritime activities on the marine environment.

And just two days ago, the European Commission proposed a new policy package on the circular economy, which will help with decarbonisation and will also include measures to reduce marine litter.

Third, we need to remove the obstacles to growth ahead of a sustainable blue economy.

In the EU we have developed a strategy to boost sustainable blue growth.

One priority sector we are looking at is marine renewable energy. Industry tells us that ocean energy could meet 10% of the EU's power demand by 2050. This would help avoid 276 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. We are therefore working with stakeholders to draw up a strategic roadmap by next year that will help boost the development of this sector.

Fourth, we need better ocean governance.

Earlier this year I have carried out an international public consultation and a listening tour. I wanted to know: how could we improve the existing ocean governance framework to ensure that the oceans are used sustainably?

Next year, I will be setting out ideas on how this could be done.

There are already some positive signs: work will start next year on a legally-binding international agreement on Biodiversity in areas Beyond National Jurisdictions.

But more needs to be done, for example in the Arctic. The links between oceans and climate change, and the need for ocean governance, are especially pronounced in this region. Therefore, the EU is currently updating its Arctic Policy and stepping up its engagement with its Arctic partners, in supporting research, pursuing development based on the sustainable use of resources and in closer dialogue with Arctic states and indigenous peoples.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Well governed oceans are key to managing climate change and to building a sustainable blue economy. Let's safeguard these precious, productive ecosystems, and keep our blue planet cool.



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