Because the Ocean COP26 Event 31 October 2021
Launch of the 3rd Because the Ocean Declaration
Remarks by H.E Henry Puna,
Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific Ocean Commissioner
His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco
Excellency, Minister Carolina Schmidt
Excellency, Minister Zakia Khattabi of Belgium
Excellency, Minister Steven Guilbault of Canada
Excellency Vice-Minister Milagros de Camps of the Dominican Republic
Excellency, Deputy Minister Jodi Mahardi of Indonesia
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kia Orana and Greetings to you all:
I am delighted to be with you tonight, not only because it is Halloween, but because we gather tonight because of what I consider to be the cornerstone of the Blue Pacific: the ocean.
2. As you may know, I come from the Cook Islands. We regard the ocean as our mother- we are born into it and we will die in it. This bond is shared by many a Pacific Islander. This is not surprising considering that 96% of our region is ocean. It is central to our lives, our culture, our geography and our economies.
3. I thank you for inviting me, in my capacity as Pacific Ocean Commissioner, to the launch of the 3rd Because the Ocean Declaration. The first and second iterations of the declaration has contributed to the broader reflection of Ocean issues into UNFCCC frameworks and policy development including the incorporation of the ocean into the climate change policy debate, the inclusion of ocean action into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and more widely into climate strategies. I salute your efforts and passion. I note the presence of several Pacific Islands Forum Members who are here to sign it and reaffirm their commitment tonight.
Your serene Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Earlier this year, Pacific Islands Forum leaders adopted an Ocean Statement. They recognised that because the ocean provides us with so many life and societal supporting services, it is our greatest endowment fund. This means that, as its custodians, we must care for it, respect it, and nurture it to continue benefiting from its bounties. We must do this, not only for us, but for our children and our children’s children. We must do it for humanity.
Your Serene Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
5. Climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Blue Pacific, and of our world. We have been talking about climate change for decades now. Yet, there are still those who deny or will not act. You have seen the images of desolation and destruction caused by more severe and frequent climate induced disasters. You have heard our Blue Pacific calling for greater ambition and more action now, to the big economies and emitters.. They must act now! We need to commit and stick to implementing all needed actions to keeping to the 1.5degrees target. In short – 1.5 to stay alive, not just the Pacific, but all humankind.
6. Regardless, we need to prepare for the inevitable and adapt. The recent IPCC report has clearly stated that it is Code Red for humanity. Our climate will keep changing. Our seas will continue to warm and to rise. Our coral reefs will continue to bleach and die. Our people will continue to suffer distress from more intense weather related events, loss of livelihoods and food security and a general reduction in wellbeing.
7. We must all change how we live, our consumption patterns, our actions. We must change our thinking. We cannot continue with business as usual. Covid-19 has showed that we can change our habits, that we can act as one for the betterment of humankind. We must bring this unified global approach to bear on climate change and its impacts.
8. As the least contributors to greenhouse gases emissions, our Pacific Island Forum Leaders are showing the way. They have engaged in ambitious mitigation policies. They are also fighting hard for the long-term security and safety of the place and prospects of their people in bold, courageous, and innovative ways.
Your Serene Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
9. In August, our Forum Leaders endorsed a declaration to preserve maritime zones in the face of climate related sea level rise. This Declaration represents our formal collective view on how UNCLOS rules on maritime zones apply in the situation of climate change-related sea-level rise. It is rooted in the Convention’s underpinning legal principles, in particular those of stability, security, certainty and predictability. In essence, the declaration affirms that whether or not sea levels are rising, once maritime boundaries are set and deposited with the UN Secretary General, they shall not be altered.
10. Our Declaration is a landmark instrument that will shape international thinking. It will put our region at the heart of international discussions to resolve this global issue. While the issue is of fundamental importance to our Blue Pacific continent, other Coastal States and countries in similar fashion require stability, security, certainty and predictability of their maritime zones. I call on all your countries to support the Declaration as a practical and considered solution to address a very complex and dire consequence of climate change.
11. Furthermore, we must maintain the health, productivity and resilience of our ocean and its ecosystems. The Pacific Islands Forum leaders have committed to responsibly and effectively manage 100% of the Blue Pacific Ocean within and beyond national jurisdictions based on the best available scientific information and traditional knowledge.
12. This requires strong Ocean governance to be in place both within, and beyond, national jurisdictions of countries of the Blue Pacific. This will ensure the holistic and sustainable management of the Ocean. The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent currently being developed by the Forum, is envisaged to reinforce the prioritisation of ocean and climate change considerations into all regional and national policies and plans, both public and private. It will support the holistic, coherent and coordinated management of our Ocean.
13. In this regard, an ambitious treaty on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, BBNJ, will support our national and regional efforts. This is why our Leaders are strongly supporting the negotiations to successfully conclude in 2022, and for its entry into force as soon as possible.
14. However, critical to ensuring success in all these policies and legal frameworks and initiatives is the need for an enabling environment. This can be attained through solid, mutually beneficial partnerships and fit for purpose targeting funding. This includes establishing a new climate finance goal for post-2025, with a better balance between adaptation and mitigation, and dedicated finance for loss and damage.
Friends of the ocean and climate:
15. We are all in this together. Let’s all work together to save our Ocean and save ourselves, our children and future generations. This must be our legacy! Because of the Ocean!
I thank you for your time and look forward to building more partnerships with you all.–ENDS
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