Meld. St. 20 (2019–2020)

Norway’s integrated ocean management plans — Barents Sea–Lofoten area; the Norwegian Sea; and the North Sea and Skagerrak— Report to the Storting (white paper)

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8 International cooperation on ocean governance

The white paper The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy (Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017)) stated that the Norwegian Government will continue to advocate broad support for the Convention on the Law of the Sea and will intensify efforts to promote Norwegian ocean interests. In the white paper, the Government charted how Norway can play a leading role in international ocean issues, particularly in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Many of the drivers of change that are adversely affecting marine ecosystems can only be addressed through a concerted international effort. Long-range transboundary pollution, global warming and ocean acidification, and the spread of plastic waste are all issues that require closer international cooperation.

Norway is therefore giving high priority to support for multilateral environmental agreements, ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement, and further development of international cooperation to ensure ocean health and productivity in the future. This is followed through within the framework of international and regional environmental agreements and governance mechanisms, by cooperating on ocean management with neighbouring countries, and by assisting developing countries to develop sound ocean management regimes.

8.1 Institutions and arenas for international cooperation on ocean governance

Under the Convention on the Law of the Sea, states have a general duty to cooperate at global and regional level on protection and preservation of the marine environment. Norway shares ecosystems and important marine resources with other countries, and bilateral and regional cooperation is therefore an essential basis for sound ocean management. Norway has played a key role in the development of regional fisheries and ocean management organisations, which are important channels for promoting Norwegian policies and ocean interests. We have also played a part in the development of similar organisations in other parts of the world.

Norway is an active participant in work under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment in the North-East Atlantic (the OSPAR Convention). The next OSPAR ministerial meeting has been postponed from July 2020 to 2021, and according to plan will be held in Lisbon. It will focus mainly on adopting OSPAR’s strategy for the period 2020–2030.

The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is an important forum for fisheries cooperation between Norway and other countries in the region. Norway plays an active role in the NEAFC and has been an advocate of close cooperation between OSPAR and the NEAFC. The purpose of this cooperation is to ensure coordination of the work of the two organisations, for example to prevent illegal fishing and protect vulnerable areas.

For almost 50 years, Norway and Russia have been cooperating on joint management of the rich fish stocks in the Barents Sea through the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission. This cooperation has developed into a system covering a broad range of areas, including resource control, cooperation on coast guard and SAR operations, technical measures and Norwegian-Russian resource cooperation. The result is that the Northeast Arctic cod stock is one of the best managed fish stocks in the world, and is of vital importance for Norwegian coastal communities.

The Joint Norwegian–Russian Commission on Environmental Protection gives high priority to cooperation on the marine environment. One of the main purposes of its work is to obtain the best possible scientific basis for ecosystem-based management of the whole Barents Sea, and to share Norwegian experience that can be used in developing an integrated management plan for the Russian part of the Barents Sea as well. A coordinated environmental monitoring system for the entire Barents Sea and cooperation to deal with marine litter are being developed. Knowledge developed through the Norwegian-Russian fisheries cooperation provides important input to the work of the Environmental Protection Commission.

Iceland has included oceans and the blue economy among its priorities during its chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2019–2021. The Council’s work on the marine environment will be strengthened when its new marine mechanism is launched in autumn 2020. In addition, the Council has a Working Group for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).

However, it is not possible to resolve every issue at regional level; in certain areas, global cooperation is needed. Progress in implementing the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement is monitored through conferences of the states parties, informal consultations and two annual resolutions that are debated and adopted by the UN General Assembly. Norway plays an active part in negotiations in areas including the environment, maritime safety and security, fisheries and continental shelf issues. Since 2006, the General Assembly has for example developed rules on the conduct of fisheries to avoid damage to corals and other vulnerable benthic habitats. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has prepared guidelines for the conduct of fisheries in vulnerable areas. These provisions have subsequently been implemented by regional fisheries management organisations such as the NEAFC and in Norwegian legislation. FAO has also prepared guidelines and action plans that are important in strengthening sustainable management of fisheries resources globally. FAO developed the Agreement on Port State Measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on the basis of a Norwegian initiative.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is the global instrument for conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. A post-2020 global biodiversity framework is to be negotiated under the Convention in 2021. Key Norwegian priorities for this work are effective follow-up of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), strengthening the convention’s implementation mechanism, and promoting nature-based solutions. Norway’s national follow-up of the Convention includes developing specific goals and policy instruments to support efforts to maintain the biodiversity and productivity of marine ecosystems.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) promotes global cooperation on environmental protection. Norway has been seeking to put the oceans, and particularly marine litter, higher on UNEP’s agenda. In 2019–2021, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment is President of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which is UNEP’s governing body. Norway is working actively towards a new comprehensive global agreement to combat marine litter and microplastics, and has been working for several years to bring this issue to the forefront at sessions of UNEA.

Norway is playing a leading role in the development of safe, environmentally friendly maritime transport. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the most important forum for achieving progress in this field. IMO has adopted various conventions to protect the marine environment against releases of oil, chemicals and waste from ships and against the spread of alien species. IMO’s ambition is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by half by 2050, and work is now in progress to find ways of achieving this in practice. Norway’s ambitions for a transition to green shipping, and its advanced maritime industry, are also driving the development of a green shipping industry at international level.

Textbox 8.1 The Green Voyage2050 project

Norway is supporting the Green Voyage2050 project, a major international project that is part of IMO’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. The project will promote global measures to reduce these emissions and test new technological solutions that can reduce emissions. The project will also support capacity-building activities in developing countries in order to put them in a position to meet their obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency. In the initial phase of the project, eight countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific region are taking pilot roles, and they will later support other countries in the development of green shipping in their regions.

Reducing global CO2 emissions is the most important way of limiting the negative impacts of climate change on the oceans. The overall aim of the Paris Agreement, which is to hold global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, is of crucial importance for marine ecosystems. The Agreement contains provisions on emission reductions, adaptation to climate change, and support to developing countries in their transition to a low-emission development pathway. It is vital to ensure broad support for and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement. The oceans are receiving growing attention in the climate negotiations, both because of the rapid changes they are undergoing and because they offer part of the solution to the problem. Norway advocates an integrated approach to the oceans and climate change, using sound measures that both promote adaptation and enhance natural carbon sinks. In December 2019, Norway joined the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, or OA Alliance, a network to raise awareness of ocean acidification and of solutions that can limit acidification.

8.2 International initiatives to promote integrated ocean management

In the white paper The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy, the Government expressed its ambition for Norway to play a leading international role in work on ocean-related issues. Since then, it has taken various initiatives at international level with a view to achieving this. Some of the most important of them are discussed below.

The High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

The High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy was established on the initiative of Prime Minister Erna Solberg in 2018, against a backdrop of growing recognition of the great pressure that climate change, pollution and over-exploitation are putting on the ocean environment and marine ecosystems. The Panel consists of heads of state and government from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Palau and Portugal in addition to Norway. The Panel is also supported by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson.

The purpose of the Panel is to create international awareness of the economic importance of the oceans, and an understanding that sustainable use of marine resources and safeguarding a healthy marine environment will result in increased value creation. Clean, healthy oceans are an essential basis not only for achieving SDG 14, but also for success in achieving various other SDGs, including those relating to poverty, hunger, health, energy and climate change.

The Ocean Panel was originally to present a comprehensive report at the second UN ocean conference in June 2020, but this was postponed in view of the pandemic. The conference will probably be postponed for a year, and the Ocean Panel will launch its report and recommendations in late 2020/early 2021. The report will draw on 16 Blue Papers commissioned by the Panel and prepared by an international group of experts. Each of these synthesises existing research and innovative solutions in ocean-related areas such as climate change, IUU fishing and pollution, and sets out recommendations for international action to achieve a sustainable ocean economy. The Ocean Panel’s recommendations will draw on this knowledge base, and multi-stakeholder coalitions and partnerships will be encouraged as a means of ensuring that the recommendations are implemented. Sustainable ocean management will be an important tool for achieving the SDGs.

The Our Ocean conferences – 2019 conference hosted by Norway

The Our Ocean conferences bring together governments, civil society, science and industry for discussion and awareness raising, and to build partnerships to protect the oceans and ensure they are sustainably managed.

The first conference took place in June 2014 following an initiative by former US Secretary of State John Kerry. The conference in Oslo on 23–24 October 2019 was the sixth in the series, and brought together 600 leaders from governments, civil society, science and industry, from a total of 100 countries. The importance of knowledge-based stewardship and integrated ocean management was a central theme of the conference. The programme had six main topics: climate change, ocean pollution, fisheries governance, food and livelihoods from the ocean, a sustainable ocean economy and promoting and protecting healthy oceans. Governments, businesses and organisations announced 374 voluntary commitments to action for clean, healthy and productive seas, with a total value of at least USD 63 billion. The conference gave Norway an opportunity to strengthen cooperation with other countries and organisations to improve ocean stewardship, and for special initiatives in certain fields, such as combating marine litter, intensifying efforts to stop fisheries crime, and raising awareness of forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing. Norway announced commitments worth over NOK 3 billion to contribute to sustainable ocean management in the period 2020–2024.

Figure 8.1 High-level participants at the 2019 Our Ocean conference.

Figure 8.1 High-level participants at the 2019 Our Ocean conference.

Photo: Stine Østby/Medvind

Norway’s ocean policy and international relations

Ocean-related issues are a key part of Norway’s cooperation with most countries and regional and international organisations. The substance of the cooperation will vary, but may include promotion of Norwegian ocean industries, ocean-related development cooperation, research cooperation and cooperation to promote the international ocean agenda. A more strategic ocean dialogue has been started with some countries, as a forum for sharing experience and expertise and cooperating on possible action for clean and healthy oceans, sustainable use of ocean resources and growth in the blue economy. The formal dialogue framework and broad-based approach allow for a strategic exchange of views on approaches to ocean management and cooperation to promote international action. In addition to representatives from relevant public authorities, these dialogues may include participants from academia, business and civil society. An ocean dialogue was established with Australia in 2018 and with India in 2019. There are plans to establish similar arrangements with Indonesia and China in 2020. Norway is also seeking to strengthen its dialogue on ocean affairs with key European countries and with organisations such as the African Union and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

Marine litter and the spread of microplastics

Norway has been working for some years to enhance international cooperation to address the problem of marine litter and plastic waste. In 2017, following an initiative by Norway, the UN Environment Assembly reached agreement on a long-term zero vision to eliminate discharges of plastics and microplastics to the oceans. Norway is advocating a more concerted international effort to achieve this. In Norway’s view, the most important development will be to put in place a new global instrument obliging all countries to take action to halt inputs of plastic waste and microplastics to the oceans and the environment generally. An agreement must cover all sea- and land-based sources, and must lead to stronger and more targeted action and more effective use of resources.

Norway established a development programme to combat marine litter and microplastics in 2018. This is intended to play a part in achieving one of the targets of SDG 14, which is to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025, particularly from land-based activities. NOK 1.6 billion has been allocated to the programme for the period 2019–2022. The transfer of knowledge and expertise on marine litter and microplastics will also be part of the Oceans for Development programme.

Norway is playing a key role in implementation of the IMO action plan to address marine plastic litter from shipping and fisheries. In 2019, Norway entered into an agreement with IMO, which in cooperation with FAO is launching the Glo-Litter Partnerships Project. The purpose of the project is to assist developing countries to implement the IMO plastics action plan. Norway also gives high priority to Nordic cooperation, and during its most recent chairmanship of the Nordic Council, used its long experience of retrieving lost fishing gear to establish the Clean Nordic Oceans project. Norway is also following up the IMO action plan on marine plastic litter as part of regional cooperation on the marine environment under OSPAR, and in the development of a regional action plan on marine litter under the Arctic Council. In 2019, Norway became a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, and intends to support specific projects to tackle the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear under the initiative. Norway has also taken the initiative for bilateral cooperation on marine litter as part of Norwegian-Russian environmental cooperation and cooperation with a number of other countries.

Development programmes intended to enhance ocean governance

Norway’s model of integrated ocean management is often highlighted internationally as an example for others to follow. Sound ocean management and good governance generally are closely related, and development assistance in this area therefore requires a long-term approach. The development programmes described below are all demand driven, make use of Norwegian experience and public-sector expertise, and are based on scientific cooperation and knowledge sharing. They are intended to support developing countries in building public-sector expertise and capacity through institutional cooperation and by supporting civil society actors, education and research, and industrial development. The following development programmes administered by Norad are particularly relevant in the context of sustainable ocean management:

  • Oil for Development was established in 2005, and its objective is economically, socially and environmentally responsible management of petroleum resources in partner countries. This is to be achieved through 1) establishing a legal and regulatory framework for the petroleum sector, 2) building up the capacity of the relevant administrative authorities, and 3) increasing transparency in management of the petroleum sector and holding the authorities accountable. The programme collaborates with public authorities and civil society organisations.

  • Fish for Development was established in 2016 with the objective of increasing the ability of fisheries and aquaculture to contribute to socio-economic development in partner countries, for example through higher employment and better food and nutrition security. Programme activities are intended to help public authorities to build up their capacity for sustainable management, encourage research and educational institutions to assist the authorities and businesses with knowledge, data and advice about sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, and ensure that businesses exploit fisheries resources and engage in aquaculture production in a sustainable manner. The largest area of investment under Fish for Development is the EAF-Nansen programme, which involves cooperation between Norad, FAO, the Institute of Marine Research and the Directorate of Fisheries.

  • Oceans for Development was launched in Oslo during the Our Ocean conference in October 2019, and is now being established. It is intended to supplement existing ocean-related programmes and initiatives and will focus on integrated ocean management, cross-sectoral coordination and a framework for sustainable ocean industries. Regional cooperation will also be a key element of the programme.

Norway has also played an active role in the establishment of the PROBLUE multi-donor trust fund in the World Bank system. Its overall goal is to achieve integrated, sustainable economic development and clean, healthy oceans. Activities will include analytical work, generating and sharing knowledge, supporting policy reform and encouraging private and public investment to support the ocean economy. PROBLUE focuses on four key themes: sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; marine litter and pollution management; sustainable development of key oceanic sectors; and building government capacity for integrated management of marine and coastal resources. The fund was established in 2019. Apart from Norway, donors include Canada, Denmark, the EU, Iceland, France, Germany and Sweden. Norway and the World Bank are co-chairing the Partnership Council of PROBLUE in 2020.

Cooperation to fight maritime crime

Agencies such as the police, coast guard and supervisory authorities often lack sufficient capacity and systems for exchanging information, which makes it very challenging to fight against fisheries and environmental crime and other maritime crime.

In 2018, Norway took the initiative for an international declaration on organised fisheries crime. The declaration has so far been supported by 27 countries, and its aim is to provide a political framework for international cooperation to combat transnational organised fisheries crime. Norway is seeking to strengthen political support for combating transnational organised fisheries crime through a resolution of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

Modern technology and satellite tracking make it possible to collect data from large areas, and are valuable in the fight against fisheries and environmental crime. Such techniques are particularly important in areas where it can otherwise be difficult to gain a good overview, such as Norway’s northernmost waters. This was further discussed in a white paper on space-related activities (Meld. St. 10 (2019–2020).

8.3 UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed the period 2021–2030 as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, with the aim of enhancing knowledge about the oceans globally. Research activities will be promoted and coordinated at national and global level with a view to achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 14 on life below water. The objective is not only knowledge development, but also to ensure that knowledge is used in policy development and sustainable use of the oceans.

The two objectives of the Ocean Decade are to generate the scientific knowledge and underpinning infrastructures and partnerships needed for sustainable development of the ocean, and to provide ocean science, data and information to inform policy development in support of the SDGs.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC) is responsible for promoting and coordinating ocean science at global level, and has been tasked with planning the Ocean Decade. The IOC is being assisted in this work by an international group of experts. The IOC has drafted a roadmap for the Ocean Decade, and an implementation plan is to be completed in 2020. During the planning phase, research communities, businesses and other stakeholders are being encouraged to participate and provide input. Global planning meetings are being held, and a series of regional workshops is being organised in 2019 and 2020, for example for the North Atlantic and for Arctic seas. Norway is playing an active part in the planning process.

Norwegian marine research is already of a high calibre both nationally and in an international context. The Government’s ocean-related strategies give prominence to research and scientific knowledge, and management of ocean resources and the marine environment and ocean-based commercial activities are expected to be knowledge-based. The High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy will be presenting its recommendations as the Ocean Decade begins. It will therefore be vital to ensure coherence between the High-level Panel’s recommendations and the research tasks that must be completed during the decade.

The Ocean Secretariat of the Research Council of Norway has been tasked with national coordination and follow-up of the Ocean Decade. This includes proposing goals for Norway’s efforts, priority research areas and what resources will be needed.

It is important to involve key Norwegian marine research groups and institutions in this planning process, and an expert group has been established to plan Norwegian contributions, initiatives and priorities related to the Ocean Decade. The group includes representatives of relevant research groups, the business sector and interest groups. In addition, dialogue meetings will be organised in various parts of Norway. These arrangements will be important for national coordination and follow-up, and as a means of obtaining input about the best ways of using Norway’s contributions during the Ocean Decade in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

8.4 UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016–2025)

The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition runs from 2016 to 2025. Under SDG 2, the world has adopted the goal of ending hunger and malnutrition. To provide sufficient safe, nutritious food for a growing population, we will need to produce more food from the oceans. It is therefore logical to coordinate work under the two UN decades. There is a certain potential for harvesting more from the oceans and a considerable potential for increasing aquaculture production, as set out in the report The Future of Food from the Sea commissioned from a group of experts by the Ocean Panel. As part of the Decade of Action on Nutrition, Norway has established an Action Network for Sustainable Food from the Oceans and Inland Waters for Food Security and Nutrition. Food from the oceans provides important nutrients that are often in short supply in other types of food, and seafood production can and should be increased. Norway can make use of its waters to contribute to this, especially by increasing aquaculture production.

8.5 Further development of international ocean governance

The Law of the Sea provides a stable and predictable framework for all use of the oceans, but at the same time is constantly being developed and adapted as new challenges arise. Negotiations are currently in progress on an international legal instrument under the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This provides one example of global willingness to enhance the framework for international ocean governance. Another example is the work in progress under the International Seabed Authority to develop a regulatory framework for deep-seabed mining activities in what is known as ‘the Area’ beyond national jurisdiction. The starting point for this work is the provision of the Law of the Sea stating that the resources of the Area are the common heritage of mankind. The purpose of this work is to avoid a situation where only the technologically most advanced states are able to benefit from seabed mineral resources, and at the same time ensure that strict environmental standards are maintained. Norway also considers it important to work towards a regulatory framework that will support the implementation of the SDGs.

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