Remarks at Press Briefing on the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference

As Secretary General of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, it is a very special moment for me and indeed the global community to interact with you today on the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference.  

We have waited patiently for two years for this moment -- Two difficult years with an ever-present pandemic which we are still trying to understand and come to terms with.

Against such a backdrop, to be able to come together for the benefit of the ocean is an enormous feat.  

I therefore wish to commend co-hosts Portugal and Kenya for their firm commitment and steadfast support against all odds.  

We have around 6,500 participants overall. Within this figure, we have participation of 159 Member State delegations, with 15 Heads of State, 1 Vice President, 9 Prime Ministers, around 124 Ministers. In addition, we have 17 Heads of IGOs.

It is thanks to them that we have had such a rich and diverse range of discussions, all aligned with the theme of the Conference “Scaling up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships and Solutions.” 

We have had 9 plenary Sessions and eight Interactive Dialogues designed around the targets of SDG14, which formed the official part of the programme. 

In addition, 4 special events contributed to the theme of the Conference and drove meaningful outcomes: 

1.    The Local and Regional Governments Forum, entitled “Localizing action for the ocean”, addressed the impact of climate change on coastal cities. 

2.    The Youth and Innovation Forum provided a unique opportunity for young people to contribute to the implementation of SDG 14.

3.    The High-Level Symposium on Water brought the salt-water and fresh-water communities together to highlight the interlinkages between SDG 6 and SDG 14, that could be leveraged in support of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

4.    Finally, the Sustainable Blue Economy Investment Forum successfully brought together businesses and other stakeholders to focus on implementing a transformative blue economy, where philanthropic organizations committed 1 billion US Dollars to help protect 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030.  

Equally impactful was the impressive selection of Side Events which were held both within the Altice Arena and outside. We had 95 inside the Altice Arena (the Blue Zone), 124 outside and 84 virtual side events with the enthusiastic participation of all stakeholders.

During the course of this Conference, we heard passionate accounts of lives lived and our connection to the ocean. We heard world leaders, UN executives, leading scientists and experts, CEOs and other high-level representatives of the private sector and thousands of civil society representatives discuss how we can halt and reverse the declining health of the ocean and drive much needed science-based action to the benefit of the ocean. 

Many pledges were made to that end.  

For example, two countries in partnership, USA and Norway, announced a Green Shipping Challenge for COP 27. 

Another one, Singapore, is also championing green shipping, encouraging carbon accounting by shipping companies, and research on low-carbon maritime fuels. 

India has committed to a Coastal Clean Seas Campaign and will work toward a ban on single use plastics, beginning with plastic bags. 

China has pledged to provide assistance to developing countries, especially SIDs, through the One Belt One Road initiative.  

Argentina is currently considering a law to double its MPA area and expand wetlands protection and another one, Indonesia, aims to establish a research and data collection platform for archipelagic island nations. 

The above are by no means exhaustive but highlight the political will of nations across the globe.

These deliberations successfully culminated in a political declaration rightfully titled “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility”, which will be formally adopted tomorrow.

The declaration recognizes the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ocean-based economy and ocean health, including increased plastic waste. 

With that in mind, the declaration welcomes the outcome of the recent United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) to develop an internationally legally binding agreement on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. 

The declaration also connects ocean health and human health, which is critical in the context of a lingering pandemic.

I am particularly pleased that, while committing to taking science-based and innovative actions, the declaration recognizes the importance of indigenous, traditional and local knowledge, and the need for further support to developing countries, especially regarding capacity building, financing and technology transfer. It further calls for full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and girls.

The declaration affirms the importance of implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact and commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transportation.

It also recognizes the ocean-climate-biodiversity nexus and calls for an ambitious, balanced, and transformative post-2020 global biodiversity framework for adoption at the second part of COP 15 of CBD.

While all these positive developments are noteworthy, the declaration deeply regrets our collective failure to achieve targets 14.2, 14.4, 14.5 and 14.6 that matured in 2020, and renews our commitment to taking urgent action without delay.

There is hope for progress in these lagging areas. Less than two weeks ago, the World Trade Organization secured a deal to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. This deal has been more than 20 years in negotiation, and marks a win for addressing overfishing, and reaching SDG target 14.6.

Voluntary Commitments were a significant legacy of the 2017 Ocean Conference and this has been carried forward with Member States committing to implementation and proposing further commitments. 

For example, Portugal, our host country, registered a commitment to ensure that           100 per cent of fish stocks are kept within biologically sustainable limits. They have also recently legislated the largest Marine Protected Area in Europe and the north Atlantic around the Selvagens Islands near Madeira. 

Another country, Australia, announced that it would invest 16 million dollars on a regional action plan for waste management in the Pacific. 

The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) announced a voluntary commitment of USD 1.2 billion to support projects to benefit the ocean in the region.

These are mere highlights, and more commitments are being registered daily.

What both Ocean Conferences - and the emergent voluntary commitments - have shown is that the ocean is everyone’s concern. 

I would urge all those who have made voluntary commitments to join the Communities of Ocean Action, and to stay engaged. The more we engage with each other, the more we can mutually learn about what kinds of actions work, and can be further scaled up.

We also urge everyone to report on the progress they have made, and to share their work with us and the broader ocean community.

Going forward, it would also to improve the scientific basis for our ocean action and related decisions. We have to improve the science-policy interface, and engage in scientific partnerships that build capacity through mutual learning. 

Finally, as Conference Secretary-General, I wish to thank everyone who engaged with us, helped us, and worked with us to make this Conference a success.  This Conference demonstrates what we can accomplish if we work together, in solidarity, towards our common objectives.

I thank you.

File date: 
Thursday, June 30, 2022

Mr. Liu