Sweden will continue do its utmost to unite the world around concrete actions to save our oceans and meet our voluntary commitments. On 12–13 October, Sweden and Monaco will move from words to action through the conference ‘Connecting and Protecting Our Seas: Initiatives in the Baltic and the Mediterranean’.

The UN Ocean Conference was held in June, initiated and led by Sweden and Fiji. It was the largest ever global ocean conference, with the participation of the 178 countries and a large number of international organisations, companies and representatives of civil society. Good national cooperation between ministries, government agencies, civil society and the private sector ahead of the Conference meant that Sweden was able to advance its priorities, present ambitious commitments and – not least – help bridge the fragmentation of marine issues that had previously prevailed.

The result was a politically negotiated ‘Call for Action’, aimed at supporting implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s goal on oceans, seas and marine resources, and more than 1 400 voluntary commitments that states and other key actors presented to save the oceans. Together, we put marine issues at the centre of the international development agenda at a time when a global effort is needed to break the negative trend we see affecting the world’s oceans.

The work carried out in the Baltic and Mediterranean will be compared

Sweden will continue do its utmost to unite the world around concrete actions to save our oceans and meet our voluntary commitments. On 12–13 October, Sweden and Monaco will move from words to action through the conference ‘Connecting and Protecting Our Seas: Initiatives in the Baltic and the Mediterranean’, which was also registered as a voluntary commitment during the UN Ocean Conference. In the presence of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, ministers, researchers and business representatives from Europe and the Mediterranean region will meet to exchange experience and knowledge. Sustainable transport, fishing issues and the link between the climate and oceans are some of the subjects that will be discussed, and the work carried out in the Baltic and Mediterranean will be compared.

This is necessary. The situation of the oceans is critical. Some 30 per cent of global fishing stocks are overfished and 60 per cent are fully exploited. The increasing amounts of plastic and other marine litter is a rapidly growing problem. Acidification and rising sea temperatures resulting from climate change risk seriously harming the entire ecosystem. At the same time, we currently do not have enough knowledge to fully gain an understanding of the consequences of the pressure to which the oceans are exposed.

8 000 cubic metres of plastic on Sweden’s Bohus coast each year

These trends affect us all, but the hardest hit are many of the world’s least-developed countries and small island nations. For them, this is often a purely existential issue. Traces of this damage are also becoming increasingly apparent here at home. For example, one of the hardest hit coasts in Europe is our own Bohus coast, where 8 000 cubic metres of plastic wash ashore each year.

Just under two years ago, all UN Member States adopted the historic 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda is based on the insight that our economic development can no longer come at the expense of the environment. Poverty reduction must go hand in hand with climate measures and sustainable use of natural resources.

We must pick up the pace

In general, progress has been made with regard to the 17 goals, but unfortunately, the trend has been the opposite regarding goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. The Ocean Conference was a platform for the exchange of knowledge and the chance to take action in the form of innovation and new partnerships. Healthy and flourishing oceans are a prerequisite for our survival and our wellbeing. This is why we must pick up the pace of our global marine efforts.

Global cooperation is vital to changing the negative trend that has been affecting oceans in recent years. The Government has therefore tasked Sida with drawing up a new global climate, environment and ocean strategy for 2018–2022. Nationally, the Government will invest an additional SEK 600 million in 2018 on clean oceans, including cleaning up environmentally hazardous shipwrecks, financing projects against eutrophication and strengthening protection of marine areas.

It is time to start ticking items off the to-do list to save the world’s oceans!