Guest Article: To Address the World’s Most Urgent Challenges, Look to the Ocean | SDG Knowledge Hub

By Jonas Gahr Støre, Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. and Justin Trudeau

This week, against a backdrop of conflict, the global energy crisis, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of climate change, world leaders gathered for the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). But there is hope. Our message is clear: the ocean is an underappreciated solution to many of the critical problems facing people and the planet. From tackling hunger to poverty to climate change, the ocean is on our side as we, along with our fellow leaders, act urgently to protect and sustainably manage this vital resource.

In particular, one of the most pressing issues at the UN General Assembly is how countries can get the SDGs back on track after conflict and COVID-19 have jeopardized hard-won gains and extreme weather events caused by climate change are having increasingly devastating impacts on communities to have. The 17 interlinked SDGs are the UN’s shared blueprint for working towards peace and prosperity by 2030, and ocean solutions can help achieve them. However, SDG 14 – the ocean goal – remains the least funded SDG to date.

Over 3 billion people depend on ocean proteins, offshore wind energy is becoming more widely available, and projections show that the transition to a sustainable ocean economy can offer huge opportunities, with every US$ invested in marine conservation saving at least US$5 dollars in global benefits. Ocean solutions can also help tackle the climate crisis and put countries on the path to a 1.5°C future.

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As members of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, we are proud to partner with 14 other world leaders to develop pioneering ocean solutions that help our countries build more sustainable economies. The body’s ocean action agenda aims to achieve sustainable management of 100% of the sea areas under member countries’ national jurisdictions. This aligns with the SDGs and establishes five pillars – Health, Wealth, Knowledge, Equity and Finance – which are critical to transforming the way we produce, protect and thrive the ocean.

Ocean Panel countries are spearheading real change. Member nations showcase the range of sea-based solutions that translate commitments into action and improve people’s lives. Recent data shows that these actions help to achieve all 17 SDGs.

in the Canada, we are making historic progress in protecting our waters, from less than 1% of our marine and coastal areas protected in 2015 to over 14% today, which is halfway to our goal of 30% protected areas by 2030. This goes hand-in-hand with our $3.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, which focuses on everything from better marine traffic management to emergency response, while also working with Indigenous communities. As we welcome the world to the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Montreal in December, we will call for similar ambitions around the world.

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in the Palau, 85% of our food is imported, but with the Keled A Ngercheled campaign we are working to increase local food production and sourcing to improve national food security, reduce import dependency and support local communities. This campaign also helps us fight hunger, reduce consumption-related emissions and support local businesses by promoting local production.

in the NorwayLet’s use the ocean to fight climate change by developing areas for offshore wind power. The aim is to generate new clean energy from the sea by 2040, equivalent to the amount of electricity currently produced on land in Norway. The project will have around 1,500 turbines in operation, helping to create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and provide affordable electricity for homes and businesses.

These projects are proof that the transition to a sustainable ocean economy can help countries secure a more prosperous future while tackling poverty, inequality and other SDGs. We must reinforce this focus to ensure our ocean action tackles poverty and inequality. This requires greater collaboration between public and private bodies to raise the necessary funding for projects. It also requires a clear focus on ensuring that ocean action improves the well-being of those who depend on it – by supporting communities’ food security and creating good jobs.

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As progress is made, we must not lose sight of the urgent need to accelerate and scale action as climate and environmental emergencies continue to deepen. We must change global perspectives to quickly unlock the opportunities and benefits of the ocean and achieve global goals to achieve a more just, prosperous and just world.

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Jonas Gahr Støre is the Prime Minister of Norway, Surangel S, Whipps, Jr. is the President of Palau, Justin Trudeau is the Prime Minister of Canada.

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