In a year’s time, the first UN conference on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal for the oceans will be held in Fiji. Palau and Sweden now call on all countries and stakeholders to actively prepare and engage.
Between 1970 and 2012, we lost around half of all the animals with backbones in our oceans. Overfishing is about to change the ecosystems of the oceans – which may contain up to one kilogram of plastics for every three kilograms of fish by 2025. These are clear signs that humankind’s current way of life is a threat to marine habitats and biodiversity.
Today, tens of millions of people are experiencing the effects of possibly the strongest El Niño on record. States of emergency have been declared due to drought, but people are also affected by its impact on the ocean. Massive coral bleaching that harms the ecosystems has been reported, and subsistence fishermen tell us of reduced catches due to fish migrating as the oceans get warmer.
Though far apart geographically, Palau and Sweden are united by the oceans and have a common responsibility to care for them. Melting snow in the Arctic may alter the direction of the currents in the North Atlantic, potentially changing the climate conditions in Scandinavia dramatically. People in many coastal communities across the globe are facing serious challenges as a result of climate change, which even risks submerging some Pacific countries under the surface of the ocean.
The good news is that last year world leaders showed a reinforced commitment to addressing these challenges by adopting the first universal, legally binding, global climate deal in Paris and the new universal agenda for sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda. Sustainable Development Goal 14 specifically relates to oceans, seas and marine resources. By adopting it, the international community has committed itself to ending overfishing, eliminating illegal fishing, establishing more marine protected areas, reducing plastic litter and other sources of marine pollution, and increasing ocean resilience to acidification.
The roadmap for ocean recovery is there. We are ready to take the lead.
In June next year, Sweden and Fiji will host a high-level UN conference on the implementation of SDG 14. Sweden is firmly pursuing the goal that developing countries are to enjoy fair influence over the distribution of and access to their natural resources. Active support to sustainable fisheries agreements and capacity building for developing countries for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions – in line with UN agreements – are examples of this standpoint.
Well-designed and well-managed marine protected areas can boost the health of ecosystems and even reverse the downward trends of marine biodiversity. This is particularly true if networks of areas are created. By creating the sixth largest ocean sanctuary in the world in 2020, Palau will protect 80 per cent of its maritime territory from fishing, mining and drilling. This is a natural follow-up to Palau’s ground-breaking decision to create the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009.
Palau and Sweden are fully committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and call upon all countries – as well as other critical stakeholders such as business, civil society and academia – to actively engage for the successful implementation of this tremendously important goal.
Time is running out, but there is every reason to be hopeful. If we all assume shared responsibility and act together, it is still possible to save our oceans.Billy G. Kuartei, Minister of State, Palau
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden [/restrict]