UN OCEAN CONFERENCE – LISBON
Ávarp forsætisráðherra opnunardaginn 27. júní 2022
Thank you Chair, dear colleagues,
Allow me to join others in sincerely thanking Kenya and Portugal, and the citizens of Lisbon, for generously hosting us.
We are here to talk about the ocean that covers about nearly 70 % of the Earth. And the atmosphere and the ocean are interlinked. In Iceland we see the effects of the climate crisis in the receding glaciers and in the ocean that surrounds our island. When I meet Icelandic fishermen the marine ecosystem is on the top of their minds – because they can actually see the effects of the climate change in their everyday life.
Iceland has set itself ambitious goals when it comes to climate – we aim to become carbon neutral no later than 2040, with ambitious goals to reduce emissions and bind more carbon. And the government will not issue any licences for oil exploration in Iceland´s exclusive economic zone.
The fact is that in the Arctic region, we are witnessing much faster rise in temperature than the average on earth. The consequences are serious, such as acidification, and various disruptive effects on the life chain of the ocean.
As an island nation, we follow rising sea levels in the Pacific and elsewhere with great concern for communities whose life, ways and very existence is threatened.
Two years ago, over 90 countries, including Iceland, signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature where we United to Reverse Biodiversity Loss by 2030.
For the ocean, this is highly relevant. We need to protect the marine ecosystem and ensure sustainable utilization of living marine resources. This will empower coastal communities and indigenous peoples.
We meet at a critical juncture. The climate crisis is growing, and as we are recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic we are now faced with an armed conflict in the heart of Europe.
Russia´s war on Ukraine has led to devastating loss of life and destruction and it is now creating a deadly serious global food crisis.
The danger is imminent, especially for the most vulnerable. This adds to already dire circumstances in places such as Afghanistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa and in Syria.
Before the pandemic, the progress made towards SDG2 on zero hunger was already too slow. Now, the war in Ukraine risk that we fall further back on our promise, both as regards climate action and making much needed progress on the SDGs.
It is in this context we deliberate on how the Ocean can be one of the solutions to current crises and long-term challenges. The Political Declaration, which we are adopting, is a testimony to the important tasks that lie ahead.
We still have a long way to go to reach SDG14, Life Below Water.
We need to finalize negotiations on an internationally legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
It is Iceland’s ambition to conclude the BBNJ and negotiate an agreement which we can all be proud of.
On that note, I am glad to announce that Iceland has decided to join the High Ambition Coalition on BBNJ.
We thankfully have many examples of well-functioning fisheries management.
Here, Iceland, as an island state and a fishing nation, has both expertise and experience to share. The UN Fisheries Training Program in Reykjavik has proven to be an effective tool for capacity building.
Last but not least, we must end illegal unregulated and unreported fishing. Eliminating IUU fishing is pro-environment, pro-climate, pro-nutrition, pro-poor.
This is the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture. Small in scale does not imply small in value. On the contrary, there is great potential in small scale aquaculture as it directly improves the health and wellbeing of local communities.
We must emphasize equity, rights of access, gender equality and sustainably managed local resources by local communities.
Iceland has been one of the leaders of the Aquatic and Blue Food Coalition, and I am proud to address the coalition´s special event later today about the importance of the ocean as a sustainable provider of nutrition to billions of people.
It is my firm believe that through strong international cooperation, based on international law and organizations, on the foundation of science and sustainability, and with the participation of governments, businesses, and civil society, we can overcome these challenges.
Ocean affairs are crucial to climate action and they are crucial to feeding the world population. Ocean policies are therefore also crucial to economic development, social progress and a just transition.
The solutions are right in front of us. I am hopeful and optimistic that we can and will put them to work.
I thank you for your attention.