The ocean bears the brunt of the three planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
But the ocean can also be our biggest ally in responding to these threats.
The ocean generates half the oxygen we need and absorbs a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions.
It is not just the lungs of the planet but also its largest carbon sink.
The ocean is the primary regulator of the global climate and provides billions of people with food and livelihoods.
The science is clear: we, humans are responsible for ocean problems – overfishing, coral bleaching, pollution – so we have to provide the solutions.
We need new technologies, for example to harness renewable energy from the ocean – and we need nature-based solutions, such as protecting and restoring mangroves and seagrasses.
We need global partnerships and investments.
Enhanced ocean observation and the collection of ocean data are paramount to understanding humanity’s impacts on the ocean.
I am counting on the scientific community, technological experts, governments and young people to provide solutions that will usher in a new future.
The Covid-19 pandemic has pulled back the curtain on inequality in our world.
Ocean issues may seem far from questions of human rights, women’s equality and justice – but these are actually all linked to the blue economy.
When we protect the ocean, we are addressing the defining issues of our times, from food security and poverty, to climate change.
This year’s Ocean Conference in Lisbon is a call to action and a stage to showcase commitment for a sustainable blue economy that can create jobs while protecting the planet.
It can provide political momentum for the implementation of the global agreement on harmful fishery subsidies that will hopefully be adopted under World Trade Organization this year.
It can also mobilize ambition to define an ambitious new legal instrument on plastics pollution.
Let us listen to the people’s voices and the sound of nature. They deserve meaningful action.
I have a special appeal for the youth: hold us to our promises. Challenge us to do better. Demand that this Conference is a turning point in humanity’s relationship with the ocean.