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New York

12 world leaders form new High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

A group of world leaders came together in New York City today to form a panel that will assess the value of Ocean goods and services in economic planning and support the sustainable use of Ocean resources. Co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and President of the Republic of Palau Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr., the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy consists of 12 heads of government and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. This marks the first time serving heads of government have joined forces on a global pact to protect the world’s Ocean.

Goods and services from the Ocean amount to about US$2.5 trillion each year—an amount expected to double by 2030. The Ocean supports a multitude of industries, including fishing, shipping, transportation, energy generation and tourism, and is of increasing interest to mining and biomedical companies. The Ocean feeds 3 billion people, who depend on the sea for their primary source of protein.

Speaking at the Panel’s first meeting, Co-Chair and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: “We are dependent on a clean and healthy Ocean, and all use of marine resources must be sustainable. As the only Ocean policy body consisting of serving world leaders, we have the authority and determination needed to trigger and accelerate action for Ocean protection and production. We need to find common solutions –to develop and implement comprehensive, effective regulation and an integrated Ocean management regime. This is truly a test of our ability to deliver a healthier planet and Ocean to the next generation.”

The Ocean is in danger—pollution, overfishing, microplastics, rising sea temperatures and coral bleaching put the Ocean economy and the people who depend on it at risk. 

With 80% of people living within 100km of the Ocean and three-quarters of the world's mega-cities by the sea, as much as 40% of the Ocean is already heavily affected by pollution, depleted fisheries, loss of coastal habitats and other human activities. In fact, should practices not change within 10 years, experts project that the Ocean will contain an estimated 1kg of plastic for every 3kg of fish.

Co-Chair and President of the Republic of Palau Tommy Remengesau, Jr. said: "For Palau, the Ocean is at the center of our life, culture, and identity. Its capacity to provide for our needs is immense, but it is not without limits. Humanity must learn the lessons of small islands and respect our Ocean, or we risk losing many of its gifts for good.” 

The Panel is made up of leaders from Australia, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal.

Panel leaders will also work to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by emphasizing the fundamental role that a sustainable Ocean economy must play in achieving sustainable development.

Over the next 18 months, the Panel will commission research on evidence-based solutions to the Ocean crisis and how to address it. This will include a series of “Blue Papers” by global experts exploring issues such as sustainable fisheries, Ocean-based energy solutions and tourism, as well as new approaches to Marine Protected Areas and Ocean finance. The papers will inform an action-oriented report to be released in 2020. 

The panel will pursue three overarching goals:

  • A shared understanding of the relationship between the Ocean and the economy;
  • A recognition that economic production and Ocean protection must be mutually supporting—the world must “produce and protect,” striking a balance between use and conservation of the Ocean;
  • A suite of innovations in policy, governance, markets and incentives thatwill align robust economic development with protection of the underlying natural capital of the Ocean.

A Secretariat—led by World Resources Institute—will support the High Level Panel’s activities, including research, engagement, and communications.