Excellencies, Colleagues, Friends, Good morning and welcome to what I know will be another great day for the oceans.
Yesterday, we saw major announcements from different corners of the world. For example:
- His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales together with His Serene Highness, Prince Albert of Monaco, announced a global initiative to restore coral reefs, signed by 12 countries, so far.
- Sweden put forward over 200 million euros for a cleaner Baltic Sea.
- We heard that the Ocean Conservancy will be teaming up with world-leading brands to improve waste collection in South East Asia.
- Various businesses came forward with commitments to prevent huge amounts of plastics from entering the ocean. Plastics that threaten not just life in the sea, but ultimately our own health. It is great to see corporate leaders joining us and realising they can be part of the solution too.
- We heard several announcements on Marine Protected Areas, adding up to more than 2.5 million square kilometres of protected ocean space. And we will have further announcements on this today.
- Finally, we discussed maritime security. Because our oceans are not just an environmental issue. They're a security issue as well. And here too, the private sector stepped up, and we saw various commitments on making our oceans safer and more secure.
So the bar for today is set very high.
But I am not just optimistic; I'm convinced we can meet that standard.
We have an excellent programme to take you through the remaining three conference themes: sustainable fisheries, climate change impacts, and the blue economy.
As I said yesterday, I grew up here in Malta. In fact, for many years, I was minister for tourism – which, in Malta, is all about the sea. In fact it's not just about the sea, it is about making sure that using and protecting the sea become two sides of the same coin.
So I am particularly happy that this year, for the first time, we're also using this conference to talk about the blue economy. Our oceans have a lot to offer. In fact, they can help us address some of the biggest problems the world is facing today.
But only if we use them wisely, sustainably, with the future in mind.
And this also means making the most of human ingenuity and technological advances.
Clean energy like tidal and wave power for instance, that can help us shift away from fossil fuels.
Or new biotech discoveries that could bring us that step closer to curing Alzheimer's or cancer or other serious diseases.
Or vital ways to feed a growing world population, from sustainable aquaculture to seaweed farms.
So let me get the ball rolling. My colleague, Federica Mogherini, has announced yesterday over half a billion euros of EU-funded initiatives to tackle global ocean challenges. Let me give you three examples of how these will support a sustainable blue economy.
- First, we will make available millions of euros for cooperation on maritime spatial planning this year. So that countries can plan their activities at sea together: from aquaculture sites to fisheries to offshore energy.
- Second, we will put aside funds to make sure that wave and tidal platforms are thoroughly tested with the marine environment in mind. We want future deployments to have the minimum impact on birds, fish, and whales.
- Third, we will make available 10 million euros to provide start-up grants for budding blue entrepreneurs. People who have big ideas – for example on how to clean up our seas – but who don't necessarily have deep pockets.
- And this is just a small part of what we are investing in Europe. My good friend Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for Development, will this morning announce how the European Union supports the blue economy around the world.
But now, ladies and gentlemen, over to you. Together, let's keep the blue heart beating.
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