Our Ocean: Opening statement
Ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Haakon and I am from the ocean. Just like all of you and any other mammal on this planet. A few hundred thousand years ago, our ancestors crawled up from the water to dry soil. But all of us originate from the sea. From the ocean.
And when I die—hopefully a long time from now with my loved ones around me after a rich life—I want the ocean to be back in balance. And I want to remember how we were able to see that we had to change our ways. That we really understood that taking care of our oceans is to take care of ourselves.
Before we get down to business, I want to take you to the west coast of Norway. The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day…
(Tells a story of surfing)
In that moment of surfing, nature shows us the value of balance. The balance we seek in our lives, in our human relations and between nature and people.
Through thousands of years, the oceans have connected us. They have carried goods, they have provided food, transport and employment, exploration and adventure. They have brought both ideas and diseases between continents. They have brought us to each other.
As we all know, the reason why we are gathered here at Our Ocean, is that the ocean today is not in good health, our ocean is not in balance.
Most countries and billions of people around the world live by and off the ocean. But we are very unequally affected by the changes we experience today.
We Norwegians are from the North. I love spending time in the cryosphere. Here in the north, we still have winters and glaciers.
But as you know, the glaciers are melting and the winters are less reliable.
I am not an expert on ice and sea level rise, like some of you here. So it baffled me when I recently learned that when the ice mass on land is melting in the Arctic, in this part of the world, the sea level is not affected so much here, but rather in the south.
The mass of the ice makes the water gravitate towards it. When the ice melts the pull on the water decreases, thus the sea level rise is greater in the south than here close to the melting ice. This effect of course comes in addition to other effects that raise the sea, such as the expansion of the ocean as it is warming up.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit the south and see for myself.
All the way to the other side of the world. I went to Tonga, Fiji and Samoa in the South Pacific and I could see with my own eyes that whole societies are in danger. Climate change is concrete and existential in the small island states of the Pacific.
This is an overwhelming image of our global connectedness - from north to south. We are truly in the same boat, or the same canoe as they say in the South Pacific. This connectedness is truly beautiful in many ways, but in this respect – also alarming. Alarming because it shows how vulnerable we are.
And it shows how our actions in one part of the world effect people on the other side of our planet. This also underlines the importance of global cooperation on all levels and in all areas connected to the oceans and to climate change.
And we do have the roadmap on how to move forward.
The Sustainable Development Goals. I absolutely love these goals. When we see them, it should give us energy because in them is the opportunity to choose a better tomorrow for our children. And for ourselves for that matter.
But the progress on reaching the goals is too slow. We need to speed up. We are all here to do just that.
For instance, we have to find new ways of thinking about where our food should come from when the global population increases to 9 billion. Fortunately, the ocean carries an enormous untapped potential to feed us. And I think you will use quite a bit of time on this topic today.
But for that food to be available and clean, — if we are to harness the potential of the ocean, we must combat climate change, marine pollution and overfishing – all simultaneously. No small task..!
Even though the ocean is suffering under the stresses that we humans are inflicting on it, there are some reasons to believe that we can make a significant change to the better.
A report that came out last month called "The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change" suggests that as much as 21% of the annual greenhouse gas emission cuts the world needs by 2050 to stay below the 1.5 degree target, could be achieved in the ocean alone. Up to 21%.
To move the world in the right direction we must stay open to change that might include sacrificing ways of living that we have taken for granted.
That can be daunting, but also exiting and rich on opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Because the ocean carries us, we must carry the ocean.
I would like to thank each and every one of you for all you are doing for the health of our oceans. And I would like to thank the organizers – who bring us together, who encourage us to act as a global team – together.
I wish you all the best in your important work. Have a fantastic and productive day two of Our Ocean.
Let's unite behind the science.
Thank you for your attention.