Dear distinguished guests,
While other commitments prevent me from joining you in person, I am grateful for the opportunity to address you and to share the European Union perspective.
We have a historic opportunity, this year, to set a new development agenda – an agenda that integrates the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.
When we think of sustainable development I'm sure our mental picture is of green fields, healthy cities and well looked after citizens. I'm not sure many of you would have imagined the high sea, or a rocky coast – let alone the ocean in general.
And yet the ocean must be at the heart of our sustainable development efforts.
It must be at the heart of our efforts because the ocean is the heart of our planet. We know it makes up 70 % of the earth's surface, and yet we know only 5% of its depth.
Happily, oceans are explicitly referenced as goal 14 of the SDGs; "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development"
Our job is to make this goal work. To do this we need to build awareness, cooperation and coordination between developing and developed nations.
Last month I was at the 'World Oceans Summit' in Lisbon Portugal, hosted by the economist. There we started to see the value of working together – north and south, east and west, developed and developing. The summit was a good example of what can be achieved when we have forum where we can share ideas. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union attended the summit. Having her perspective on ocean governance, cooperation and coordination was invaluable.
What is clear, and what makes our need to coordinate globally essential, is that there is growing demand.
There is growing demand for food from the ocean, for energy – wind and wave – and for economic growth.
That demand is increased as land based resources grow ever more stretched.
Looking towards the ocean is not an option but a necessity.
As ever, the economic opportunities, be they established fields such as tourism, growing sectors like aquaculture, or new pastures like bio-technology, must be constantly measured by our environmental responsibilities.
In the European Union, we are continuing our work on marine protected areas: today almost 6% of our seas is protected under the Natura 2000 network, but we will not stop here – our objective is to achieve 10 per cent coverage by 2020 in line with our international commitments.
Furthermore, last year we have adopted an innovative piece of legislation on maritime spatial planning. This applies an ecosystem-based approach to all concurrent maritime activities. It will help us to integrate the creation of marine protected areas within the wider planning context.
This sensible management allows us to build on our sustainable blue growth strategy.
But these environmental responsibilities are global. That is why I used the occasion of the World Ocean Summit to launch an international public consultation on Ocean Governance. I am currently conducting a listening tour to hear what global experts think. We would be grateful to receive contributions from as many different States as possible by our deadline of 15 September.
We will use this exercise to decide early next year how best the EU can contribute to a better management of the oceans.
We have already been working within regional fisheries management organisations to promote the creation of marine protected areas in the rest of the world.
Let us not forget that the MPA target also applies in areas, which are beyond national jurisdiction.
This builds on our success in tackling Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). More and more fishing nations are joining the EU in the fight against IUU. By creating this "ethical ID' the Commission has used the power of its enormous market to introduce social change.
But management and progress should not just be in the fishing sector.
We have been supporting the need for an UNCLOS Implementing Agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in those areas beyond national jurisdiction.
We are pleased that work on a new legally-binding instrument will start next year.
In the EU we are also considering how the post-2015 agenda should be implemented both domestically and globally.
Sustainable fisheries management and protected areas are important aspects, but not the only aspects of international oceans governance.
This is one of the reasons why the EU wants to strengthen its dialogue and cooperation with all international partners on all aspects of ocean governance.
As I mentioned at the start, when we think of SDG we think first of the land and not the ocean.
But sometimes the reverse is also true. When we think of Marine Litter for example, we think first of the ocean and then of the land. But the problem of Marine Litter starts on land.
We should of course be investing in ways to ensure that the litter does not reach the sea. One way is by promoting the 'Circular Economy'. This is a very clear commitment to keep recyclable products, particularly plastics within the production chain.
In conclusion, with your help we can gain a better understanding of global concerns, how we need to coordinate, cooperate and build awareness. And together, we can ensure that international ocean governance supports Goal 14 and our shared sustainability concerns. This is the way we build an integrated strategy that truly recognises that to protect our land, our economy, and our people, we must protect our oceans.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you a fruitful meeting.
Remarks delivered on behalf of Commissioner Vella by Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN