Ocean panel sets out new course for the world’s oceans

Source: press release, 2 December 2020

illustration: Ocean Panel
illustration: Ocean Panel

“The Earth is first and foremost an ocean planet, and ocean resources are both overexploited and undervalued. This situation is not sustainable, and it is vital that the world’s nations cooperate more closely to promote clean and productive oceans,” says Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

On behalf of the prime ministers of Australia, Canada, Fiji, Jamaica, Japan and Portugal and the presidents of Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia and Palau, Prime Minister Erna Solberg presented an ambitious action agenda for transforming the global ocean economy. These countries have 30% of the total area of exclusive economic zones in the world and have now united around an ocean action agenda to promote ocean sustainability in the future. The international community is increasingly dependent on clean, rich and healthy oceans. At the same time, the state of the marine environment globally gives cause for alarm, and marine life is under serious threat.

The 14 countries represented on the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) have now made a commitment to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean areas under their national jurisdiction, in line with Sustainable Ocean Plans, by 2025. This means that in 5 years’ time, close to 40% of the world’s coastlines and 30% of all exclusive economic zones will be covered by integrated management plans. The Ocean Panel urges all other coastal states to develop plans of this kind by 2030.

“The action agenda outlines a much-needed, far-reaching process of transformation to safeguard the oceans and the future ocean economy. The actions identified by the Ocean Panel are ambitious, but realistic, and at the same time essential if we are to achieve the SDGs. Norway will do its part and will provide the support it can, based on our experience and leadership in this area. We urge other coastal and ocean states to adopt our ‘100% approach’ and work to ensure sustainable management of all their ocean areas,” Solberg says.

“Norway is an ocean nation, and I will put the full weight of my Government behind the effort to implement the action agenda presented by the Ocean Panel today,” Solberg continues.

The oceans and the ocean industries have a key role to play in the post-COVID global economic recovery and the development of a more sustainable and environmentally sound ocean economy. In many countries, sectors such as shipping, fisheries and tourism have been hit hard during the pandemic.

“Close international cooperation on sustainable ocean management is more important than ever. We must ensure better protection of the oceans so that we can increase production of nutritious food and clean energy, and safeguard jobs and maritime transport. If we fail to protect the oceans, it will not be possible to achieve sustainable global development by 2030,” Solberg says.

Five building blocks
The Ocean Panel’s action agenda has been developed on the basis of input from selected global experts and an advisory network consisting of stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and international organisations. A total of 20 special reports and blue papers have been drawn up, including a final report that will be launched along with the action agenda. These reports show that urgent action is needed to develop sound ocean management systems worldwide in order to achieve the environmental, economic and social goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ocean-based industries and relevant targeted actions can help to meet the global demand for food, energy and transport, and at the same time achieve up to 21% of the reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions needed by 2050 to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5° C.

Sound management of marine resources will allow the oceans to sustainably yield greater benefits for society. Investments in protection of the marine environment and the development of ocean industries often have significant economic benefits but require incentives and a good framework. A sustainable ocean economy will not only enhance prosperity but will also help to ensure more equitable distribution of global resources. The Ocean Panel’s final report identifies five key building blocks to creating a sustainable ocean economy:

  • Using data to drive decision-making.
  • Engaging in goal-oriented ocean planning.
  • De-risking finance and using innovation to mobilise investment.
  • Stopping land-based pollution.
  • Changing ocean accounting so that it reflects the true value of the ocean.

The 14 countries represented on the Ocean Panel support a global target to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2020 through the establishment of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. National decisions on such measures will depend on ecosystem status and the extent and quality of ocean management generally. The global target is therefore not binding on individual countries.

The way forward
In addition to the 100% approach aimed at promoting knowledge-based, integrated management of all countries’ coastal areas and exclusive economic zones, the Ocean Panel has identified a number of actions relating to food production, energy, tourism, transport, emerging ocean industries, seabed mineral extraction, climate change, coastal ecosystems, pollution, equitable distribution of resources, knowledge, natural capital accounting, data, technology and finance.

The Ocean Panel will now be developed into a broader international partnership, and more countries and partners will be invited to join forces to implement the Panel’s action agenda. Research and innovation will continue to be vital in ensuring better use of the oceans and ocean resources. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021–2030 will provide an international framework for these efforts.

The Prime Minister’s engagement in the Ocean Panel is supported by the Minister of Regional Development and Digitalisation, the Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, the Minister of Research and Higher Education, the Minister of Climate and Environment, the Minister of Local Government and Modernisation, the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Development. In a joint statement, they assert:

“Norway is an ocean nation. The work of the Ocean Panel shows widespread support for the Government’s cross-sectoral initiative. The world’s ocean industries are dependent on clean, productive oceans. The challenges we are facing do not stop at national borders. That is why the Government will continue to work at both national and international level to promote a sustainable blue economy.”

The Ocean Panel’s basic approach has been that policy and action should be based on knowledge. Norway has world-leading research, business and ocean management communities. On 3 December, the Prime Minister will meet leading representatives of the Norwegian research community, the business sector and NGOs. They will present their initiatives for international follow-up of the Ocean Panel’s report and will provide input on what they think is needed to realise the Ocean Panel’s goals. Participants will include President and CEO of Equinor, Anders Opedal; CEO of WWF Norway, Karoline Andaur; President of the Norwegian Shipowners Association, Paul-Christian Rieber; Managing Director at Skretting, Therese Log Bergjord; Programme Director at the Institute of Marine Research and member of the Ocean Panel’s Expert Group, Peter Haugan; and President and CEO of Aker ASA, Øyvind Eriksen.

Read the Ocean Panel’s report and action agenda here.