Our Oceans - Our Future

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and the co-organisers, the Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, for giving me the opportunity to speak on oceans and the importance of international cooperation.

The oceans on our planet flow into each other.

Separating one ocean from another is impossible. Some argue we can't talk about the oceans – but rather the ocean.

Ocean currents are constantly moving, they never stop.

As a result, pollution in one part of the world can have a serious impact on the other side of the globe.

I struggle to think of a better example of global interdependence than the oceans.

If we join forces today, this will help us to address the most serious issues of the future.

Close international cooperation on oceans can limit the effects of climate change, feed a growing global population and help develop a sustainable blue economy.

Japan and Norway are both maritime nations.

We share a commitment to advancing the global agenda on oceans.

We also both know that there are abundant resources we can harvest from the sea, if we manage to strike the right balance between production and protection.

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A quick glance at the map shows us why the oceans are so important for our two countries.

Unlike Japan, Norway is not an island, but if we measure the length of our coastlines, we would probably both end up in the global top ten.

For both our countries, the sea has always given us food, transport routes and strategic protection.

As seafaring nations, it was also our gateway to the rest of the world.

There are a number of parallels between Norway and Japan when you look at our maritime history.

In the 20th century, Norwegian and Japanese vessels travelled to the Antarctic to hunt for whale oil and meat.

Polar explorers Shirase and Amundsen competed with each other in their quest for knowledge about unknown frontiers in the Antarctic.

Amundsen may have been the first to reach the South Pole, but Japanese explorers made equally valuable contributions to polar history.

Norway and Japan are both significant actors in commercial shipping. As early as 1905, a Norwegian consulate general was opened in Yokohama to assist Norwegian seamen and ship-owners in Japan.

And not only do both Norway and Japan have a history of being leading ocean nations, we intend to play a leading role in the future, too.

This brings with it a responsibility to keep pushing the global agenda for sustainable ocean management forward.

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In 2017, the Norwegian Government presented two key documents on the oceans: a strategy for ensuring sustainable growth in our ocean industries and a white paper on the oceans in Norway's foreign and development policy.

The white paper is the first of its kind, and in it we pay specific attention to three areas:

  1. promoting the sustainable use of ocean resources,
  2. ensuring that oceans are clean and healthy, and
  3. strengthening the role of the blue economy in our development cooperation.

We are now working to put our policies into practice.

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Norway is an Arctic nation. Much of our territory lies north of the Arctic Circle. Sea areas account for a large part.

For us, the Arctic is not a merely a remote, icy place. For many Norwegians, it is where we live, raise our families and run businesses.

As a result of climate change, we are seeing rapid and dramatic changes to the Arctic environment.

The consequences of climate change are severe, not only for the local communities in the Arctic but for the planet as a whole.

Rising sea levels and altered climatic conditions will have a global impact. The full and swift implementation of the Paris Agreement is therefore of crucial importance for the Arctic region, for the oceans – and for us all.

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The changes are happening fast.

So fast that researchers are struggling to understand and predict the effects they will eventually have on ecosystems.

No country can acquire the knowledge that is needed alone. International research cooperation is the only way forward.

In Ny-Ålesund, high up north on the Svalbard archipelago, an international research community is dedicated to studying the Arctic.

Since 1991, the Japanese research station NIPR-Rabben has made valuable contributions.

Norwegian universities and research institutions enjoy close cooperation with the National Institute for Polar Research (NIPR), the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Hokkaido University.

The cooperation between the Norwegian Polar Institute and the University of Hokkaido is a good example.

For many years they have worked together to understand the atmosphere-ice-ocean-ecosystem processes in the Arctic Ocean.

In 2015, Japanese and Norwegian researchers spent a long, dark and cold winter on the Norwegian polar research vessel Lance, drifting with the sea ice to collect rare, but important, data.

The cooperation will continue with a new international research expedition to the same region in 2019-2020.

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The Arctic Council plays an important role in ensuring predictable and inclusive cooperation in the Arctic region.

We appreciate the contributions of Japan and other observers to the Council's work.

Compliance with international law and the sustainable use of natural resources are vital for the peaceful and profitable development of the Arctic.

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The same can be said for the oceans in general. The oceans cover two thirds of our planet, produce half of the oxygen we breathe, and absorb around one third of our CO2 emissions.

If we are to reach the SDGs, it is essential that we work for healthy and productive oceans.

In order to protect the oceans, we are dependent on close international cooperation.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the international legal framework for our efforts.

Respect for the multilateral system and international rules and conventions is essential.

Clear rules are necessary for ensuring a level playing field and equal opportunities.

To ensure that our efforts are as effective as possible, we must all work for full implementation of the Law of the Sea and our other global commitments.

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It is said that we know more about the surface of the moon and the planet Mars, than the bottom of the ocean.

We do not yet know the full potential the oceans hold and the opportunities they offer.

Science is gradually helping us to uncover the secrets of the sea and the seabed.

Knowledge has been – and remains – the key to unlocking the full potential of the oceans.

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At present, over two thirds of Norwegian export revenues come from coastal and ocean-based activities – fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, and energy production (oil and gas).

To maintain the balance between conservation and consumption, we rely on integrated management plans for Norway's sea areas.

These plans brings together actors from all relevant parts of the public administration, along with the research and development sector, and not least the ocean and coast-based industries. In our view, Norway's experience is relevant for developing a global sustainable blue economy.

Responsible ocean management ensures sustainable harvesting and food production as well as employment, growth and welfare for generations to come.

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Experience shows that we can harvest the sea's resources without reducing their value.

In 1989, the Arctic cod stock was at a historically low level. It was obvious to both Norway and Russia that something had to be done.

Ever since, Norwegian and Russian scientists have carried out joint research on the management of fisheries.

Their knowledge and advice has been passed on to decision-makers on both sides of the border.

The results are striking.

Today, the cod stock is ten times the size it was, and is now the largest in the world. Its annual economic value is estimated at around 2 billion dollars.

This means that Norway's offshore production of oil and gas coexists with some of the healthiest wild fisheries in the world.

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You can frequently find Norwegian seafood on Japanese dinner tables, salmon and mackerel in particular.

Last week, Japan's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Ken Saito, visited the western part of Norway to explore the potential for new partnerships and learn more about Norwegian fisheries.

Japan is not only an important market for Norwegian seafood.

You are also an important partner in developing the global seafood market through industrial partnerships and technological development.

In Norway and Japan we know that sustainably harvested fish and seafood are healthy foods. But today, only 2-5 % of global food consumption is seafood.

We agree that people should eat more fish and seafood, and we need to give fish and seafood the importance they deserve in ensuring food security.

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There is no reason why the blue economy cannot drive growth in developing countries.

Norway is intensifying our efforts to share knowledge, technology and sustainable management strategies with developing economies.

According to the World Bank, the fisheries sector is losing a staggering 83 billion dollars each year, largely because of overfishing. Small island states and developing nations are often the hardest hit.

Last year we launched a state-of-the-art research vessel, Dr Fridtjof Nansen, which will play a role in promoting sustainable fisheries and management of ocean resources in developing countries in the years to come.

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We are currently facing a double challenge.

On the one hand, we have to stop the world's marine ecosystems from being destroyed. On the other, it is essential that we increase ocean productivity.

The state of our oceans is not encouraging: three out of ten of the world's commercial fish stocks are overexploited.

Marine ecosystems are under severe pressure from global warming, ocean acidification and pollution.

The world has everything to gain from keeping the oceans productive and healthy. To a large degree, our future level of welfare will be determined by how well we manage the oceans and harvest their resources.

By 2050, there will be close to 10 billion people on the planet. 10 billion people will need more food, more energy and more means of transport.

The SDGs, and particularly SDG 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, are our common guidelines.

If we are to stand a chance of meeting the targets, sustainable ocean management must start immediately.

The UN Ocean Conference last year was a significant milestone.

It was the first time the UN spearheaded a global conference exclusively focusing on the health of the oceans.

To maintain the momentum, we need an even stronger focus on sustainable oceans in the UN in the years to come.

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Every year, a staggering amount of tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean. This simply has to stop.

Plastic does not disappear from the sea. It stays there, and the volume increases every year.

Over the next ten years, projections show we will use even more plastic-intensive consumer goods.

Most of this growth will take place in countries where waste-management systems are just emerging.

In December last year, the third session of the UN Environment Assembly adopted a resolution, proposed by Norway, with the aim of stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean.

The Norwegian Government recently launched a programme, with a budget of 15 million dollars, to combat waste and plastics in the oceans in developing countries.

A zero vision for plastics in the ocean is ambitious, but if we join forces and commit to the necessary global teamwork, we can make substantial progress.

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The many new ocean-related initiatives show that the issue of the state of the oceans is moving higher up the international agenda. For Norway, it is important to make sure that the various initiatives are coordinated and work towards our common goal, which is to meet the SDGs as set out in Agenda 2030.

Prime Minister Solberg has taken the initiative to establish an international High-level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The panel consists of leaders from a number of ocean states, and will cooperate closely with the UN and other international initiatives.

Representatives of ocean industries and civil society will give advice and input, and a group of experts will provide the scientific background information.

The overall objective of the Panel is to increase global awareness of how responsible ocean management can help us to achieve the SDGs. The High-level Panel's final report will be presented in 2020.

A milestone will be the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo in October next year.

A key point on the agenda of the Conference will be how we can strike a balance between sustainable use of ocean resources and maintaining a healthy ocean environment as a precondition for increased economic growth.

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The oceans hold tremendous, untapped potential, as a source of food, medicines and energy.

Knowledge is the key to unlocking this potential.

And the only way to get the knowledge we need is through international cooperation.

Norway and Japan share the objective of making healthy and productive oceans a global priority.

It is our responsibility to keep building the momentum.

Thank you.

 

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