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Opening remarks by Ambassador Peter Thomson, UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean at the High-Level Opening of SBSTA’s Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All courtesies observed. Thank you for the opportunity of speaking at the opening of the Ocean and Climate Dialogues this evening. As Lord Goldsmith has just said, Climate Change and Ocean Change are inextricably linked, and he has eloquently explained that linkage. To his words I add the mantra of “No healthy Planet without a healthy Ocean”, and as we now fully understand, the Ocean’s health has been in decline for quite some time.

Thus, we have a global demand for meaningful action to reverse that decline, action that goes beyond repetitive rhetoric into new territories of ambition and behaviour. By the time we get to Glasgow in November next year, we should already be familiar with how we shall behave within those new territories.

To a gathering such as this, I need not spell out the great existential challenges we face in the 21st Century or the role of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in taking us towards the brink. But let me say that overcoming those challenges, both in word and deed, requires the Ocean’s place to be front and centre in all of our plans relating to biodiversity loss and the looming Climate Crisis.

Neither need I, Ladies and Gentlemen, delve into the Ocean’s role in regulating and moderating global weather, in planetary heat control and carbon absorption. Just let me state, loud and clear, that those anthropogenic heat-trapping gases are the common enemy of the Climate Crisis, of Biodiversity loss, and the declining health of the Ocean.

It is thus that we say that Climate Change and Ocean Change are inextricably linked, and it is gratifying that SBSTA has recognised this in mandating today’s dialogue. I trust that this linkage will now never be broken in our work ahead. Whatever our field of endeavour, we are all part of the great struggle to overcome the existential challenges of the 21st Century.

As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said in his State of the Planet speech in New York today, humanity has been at war with Nature, and the time has come, before it is too late, for us to make peace with Nature.

And so, gone are the days when it is acceptable to work and think in silos. Everything is connected, human to human, human to Nature, Nature to Climate, all in a “One Health” world. If we have learnt anything from this pandemic, we have learnt that lesson of connectivity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I close my remarks today by referring not to what ails the Ocean, but to what it can do to hugely advance our Climate Change mitigation efforts. After two years of intense research by over two hundred experts from fifty countries, the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy has today released the findings of its vision of Transformations for priority action. These findings demonstrate the mighty power of a sustainable Ocean-based economy to deliver up to one-fifth of the annual greenhouse gas emission reductions needed by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5°Celsius.

Between now and COP26 in Glasgow, may every nation consider these findings closely, and thereby determine how they might double down on their Ocean-based Climate action contributions under the Paris Agreement.

Thank you for your attention.