October 10th, 2017
Three billion people worldwide depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, with over one billion reliant on seafood as their main source of animal protein. But the oceans face a multitude of threats, such as pollution, climate change, overfishing and criminal activities at sea.
As part of a global response to address these mounting challenges, 112 countries made 400 commitments with total funding of €6bn, towards ocean-management solutions at the EU-hosted Our Ocean Conference 2017 in Malta last week.
Over 200 commitments came from third-country governments, more than 100 from global businesses, and several others from NGOs, foundations, research institutes and international organisations. The EU Commission itself made 36 commitments, totalling over €550m of EU-funded initiatives to tackle global oceans challenges.
For the first time, the Conference gathered significant commitments from the private sector, including Airbus, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Royal Caribbean Cruises, AXA, Sky and others.
Selected commitments among the many initiatives put forward at the EU-hosted conference were:
Minister of State Ciaran Cannon T.D. announced a commitment of €320,000 in funding to the Clean Coasts Programme 2017 operated by An Taisce.
Major multinational consumer-goods companies, such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Marks & Spencer, MARS, Werner & Mertz, and Carrefour all announced significant reductions in plastic use over the coming few years.
The UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation handed out the prestigious Circular Design Award to inspire innovation under its €8.5m New Plastic Economy initiative, while Sky announced €30m over 5 years to create an Ocean Rescue Innovation Fund to develop ideas and technology to stop plastics entering the ocean.
The European Commission announced that it will phase out all single-use plastic cups in water fountains and vending machines in its buildings in Brussels by the end of 2017.
Marine Protected Areas
Participants at the Conference also announced the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) spanning more than 2.5m km², or more than half the size of the entire European Union.
The EU announced that it will commit €20m to support the management of marine protected areas in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries.
Malta, Chile, the Cook Islands, Indonesia, Niue, and Palau, all committed to additional marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean.
The EU with Sweden announced a €45m Pacific-EU Marine Partnership, supporting sustainable development in the Pacific.
The opening of the world’s first tidal turbine plant by Naval Energies in Cherbourg, France, marks the start of industrial-scale renewable ocean energy.
Between 2017-2023, the World Bank will dedicate nearly €300m to advance a sustainable blue economy in developing countries, including the Indian Ocean and Pacific regions.
Five top global insurance industry companies, including Allianz AGCS and AXA, committed to refuse insurance to vessels internationally blacklisted for illegal or unregulated fishing.
The Philippines announced an important push towards the science-based management of its main fishing grounds and an expansion of its Vessel Monitoring System to cover 35 per cent of its registered fleet.
The Global Partnership for Sharks and Rays announced plans to award over €6m supporting shark and ray conservation globally.
The world biggest fishing port in Vigo, Spain announced its plans for 30 per cent emission reductions by 2022, including through innovative algae capture of CO2.
‘The Arctic Commitment’, an initiative by the Clean Arctic Alliance and cruise ship operator Hurtigruten Alliance, aims at ending the use of heavy fuel (HFO) in the fragile Arctic environment.
WindEurope announced nearly €25bn of investments in offshore wind energy towards 2019, while the EU together with the International Maritime Organisation committed €10m to promote energy-efficiency in maritime transport in developing countries.
To improve maritime security and fight piracy, the EU announced that it will invest €37.5m in several socio-economic initiatives in East Africa and the Indian Ocean, including support for alternative livelihoods.
A full list of the commitments made during Our Ocean 2017 can be found here. All the commitments and pledges will be tracked throughout the year and reported at the next Our Ocean Conference in Indonesia in 2018.