Speech at the Our Ocean Conference

Valparaiso, Chile, 5 October 2015

State Secretary Tone Skogen's speech at the Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso in Chile on 5 October 2015.

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Excellencies

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of Our Ocean

Let me first thank and congratulate Foreign Minister Muñoz and Chile for hosting the second Our Ocean conference. Chile is thus showing leadership in the efforts to address one of the great challenges of our time: how to ensure clean and productive oceans for the future. This conference is an importent step in achieving the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the Conservertion and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources. We welcome the announcements made this morning on establishing Marine Protected Areas, notably by our host Chile.

State Secretary Tone Skogen at the Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso in Chile. Credit: Norwegian Embassy in Santiago

Last year, under the leadership of Secretary Kerry in Washington, the Our Ocean Action Plan was adopted. Now we must take stock and see what we can do to take the action plan further.

For the threats we are faced with have by no means diminished:

Unsustainable fisheries are still widespread.Marine pollution, including microplastics, is of massive proportions.• Global warming is putting entire marine ecosystems at risk.

First a few words about sustainable fisheries.

Let me start by welcoming the announcement made by Secretary Kerry today on the Global Initiative on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and unregulated (IUU) Fishing/ Sea Scout Initiative. We are ready to endorse this initiative as an important step forward for the international efforts to combat IUU fishing.

Furthermore, the FAO Agreement on Port State Measuresis potentially one of the most effective measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Before it can enter into force, at least 25 countries must ratify the agreement, but so far – regrettably – only 14 countries have done so.

For some countries, there may be administrative or capacity problems preventing accession to the Agreement. This is why Norway has been working closely with FAO to promote the Agreement. So far, we have funded four regional workshops in developing countries to this end. And recently we decided to fund yet another workshop, which will target countries in the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions.

Our partnership with FAO extends into other areas as well. During this conference, there will be a panel on local communities, and how they can provide small-scale solutions to protect our oceans. Norway attaches great importance to small-scale fisheries, and the role they play in food production on the local level. I am pleased to announce that Norway recently decided to allocate USD 1,8 million to the FAO project 'Enhancing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and sustainable livelihoods'. And I had the pleasure of signing this agreement earlier this afternoon together with the director general of FAO.

It is also a great pleasure to announce that Norway recently launched the 'Fish for development' programme, which will encompass all the efforts relating to fish and marine resources in our development assistance.

At last year's conference, Norway announced the intention to allocate USD 150 million to fisheries-related development assistance. We will reach this target over a period of four years. A key element in these efforts is marine research. We are building a completely new research vessel, a new Dr Fridtjof Nansen, to be used exclusively in developing countries, as part of the EAF Nansen Project, a FAO fisheries management programme.

The new vessel will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and be ready by the end of 2016. Research on fish resources will still be a crucial part of its work. But it will also be equipped to have a much wider scope, including monitoring of the state of the marine ecosystems, biodiversity, acidification and impacts of climate change.

Let me turn to marine pollution, in particular microplastics.

The amount of plastic debris in the oceans is already colossal. This is broken down into smaller and smaller particles, ending up as microplastics, which persist in the environment.

Microplastic particles can contain or absorb environmental toxins. The potential detrimental effects of microplastics to marine life and food webs are alarming.

At last year's Our Ocean conference in Washington, Norway committed itself to allocating USD 1 million to the United Nations Environmental Programme's study on the sources and impacts of microplastic pollution and measures to reduce it. I am happy to tell you that these funds have been disbursed, and we look forward to the results of the study, which will be presented in May 2016.

It is our hope that the findings will give us a firm foundation for making concrete decisions on how to reduce the amount of plastic and microplastic pollution in our oceans.

Finally, there is the serious problem of ocean acidification.

Climate change and ocean acidification are expected to cause major environmental shifts in our oceans.

In the longer term, we can expect severe damage to marine and coastal ecosystems. The only way to prevent this is through a reduction in the global level of CO2 emissions.

At last year's conference, we announced that Norway would allocate USD one billion to assist developing countries with climate change mitigation and adaptation, including a substantial contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

I am pleased to inform you that we are well on track: this year Norway has allocated more than 700 million USD to climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. Our funding comprises support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, efforts to reduce deforestation, and efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, as well as other forms of assistance.

In terms of our pledge of USD 248 million to the Green Climate Fund, an agreement has been signed, and the first tranche has already been disbursed.

Many nations have made important commitments prior to the COP 21 meeting in Paris. But the reality remains unchanged: the sum of our national commitments so far will not be sufficient to reach the target. This underlines the need for strong provisions in the Paris agreement to ensure that commitments continue to be strengthened over time.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of Our Ocean

We depend on the ecosystems of the world for our survival. With this in view it is vital to ensure that the oceans of the world are managed responsibly. We need partnerships, and we need goals. And we all have to do our part. The announcements made today are important steps in the right direction.

Thank you.