“Our history is riddled with countless avoidable mistakes. One of the most harmful man-made disasters of all is our consistent failure to conserve our ocean,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA Under-Secretary-General and Secretary-General of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference as he took the stage at the Sustainable Blue Economy Investment Forum (SBEIF) on 28 June.

Before  an enthusiastic crowdin the Estoril Congress Centre in Cascais, Portugal, Mr. Liu outlined several threats to this vital blue planetary resource. 11 million tons of plastic end up in our ocean every year. 10 million tons of fish go to waste on an annual basis. Ocean acidity has increased by 26 per cent since pre-industrial times.

“We are here today, acknowledging our solemn responsibility to fix our relationship with the ocean,” Mr. Liu stressed. He reiterated the call by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres for urgent action on several fronts – for the ocean, our climate and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While he recognized progress, he pointed to the latest data on goal 14, which reveals that we are not making progress fast enough. “We should chart a new course away from “business as usual” towards a “sustainable blue economy,” Mr. Liu said, explaining how this would offer one of the greatest opportunities of our time.

“The evidence shows that the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at US$ 3 trillion per year, or about 5 per cent of global gross domestic product,” he said. 

During the Forum, several other high-level speakers highlighted this opportunity, like the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, calling the ocean ‘the next investment frontier”, also noting the large source of untapped energy that the ocean represents. John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, also expressed a similar view, describing this as the “most exciting opportunity the world has ever had.”

But many of the speakers also stressed the urgency we are facing, with Mr. Kerry noting that we can do better, but that we need to do things faster. 

Mr. Liu also flagged the need to act, and to act together. “We cannot go green without going blue. We cannot go blue without each other,” he said.

Learn more about the Forum, which was organized by the Governments of Portugal and Kenya, by visiting this website.