Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean at the European Parliament

14 February 2024, 13h00-14h00

Galvanizing Global Efforts: Reflections from the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean event at the European Parliament

On 14 February 2024, the European Parliament became a hub for a dynamic discussion, as ocean advocates and stakeholders from civil society and European and UN agencies convened to address the urgent need for enhanced ocean protection measures ahead of next year’s UN Ocean Conference in Nice. The event served as a platform for dialogue and collaboration. It emphasized the global imperative to bolster efforts in safeguarding our ocean.

A full room at the European Parliament for a discussion on the EU role on ocean protection, 14 February 2024 (c) Isabel Leal – Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean

We extend our gratitude to MEPs Grace O’Sullivan (Greens/EFA, Ireland) and Catherine Chabaud (Renew, France), and their teams, for their hospitality and moderation of the discussions.

Opening the event, MEP Catherine Chabaud, Renew, called for the ocean to be effectively treated as a global common, also reminding all of us that we all play a part on its protection and regeneration.

MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Greens/EFA, urged for immediate action “We have spent the last few years setting the vital targets we need for nature restoration, ocean conservation, and emissions reduction. The coming years must prove to be a time of action and implementation or it will all be for naught.”

MEPs Grace O’Sullivan and Catherine Chabaud address the audience at the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean event (c) Isabel Leal – Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean

Her call was echoed by Cyrielle Lâm, project officer at the Ocean & Climate Platform, calling for greater participation of civil society and key stakeholders: “Let’s shake things up with new and bold ideas. We need a revised roadmap beyond 2030 to step into the future with renewed ambition. Together, let’s be architects of change“.

Rémi Parmentier, coordinator of the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean initiative, described the Protection Principle paradigm shift: “We propose a Protection Principle paradigm to reverse the burden of proof and hold extractive industries responsible. He noted that there is not so much need for new money but a more rational use of public funds, especially subsidies: “Show me the money”, you will ask: well, as part of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed in Montreal at the end of 2022, governments have said that from 2025 they would spent USD 500Bn per year to protect biodiversity“.

Cyrielle Lâm addresses audience at the European Parliament event (c) Isabel Leal – Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean

For Raphaël Goulet, Head of Unit, International Ocean Governance at the European Commission, the idea of Ministries of the Ocean proposed by the authors of the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean policy paper can be adopted: “We agree on the idea of Ministries of the ocean with holistic visions and mandates. In the BBNJ [Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions] agreement, the question is how to implement it with better vertical and horizontal coordination at national level.”

Sophie Mirgaux, Special Envoy for the Ocean of the Belgian Government, stressed the urgent need for ratification of the BBNJ agreement: “We keep talking about 30×30, but there will not be a 30×30 without a BBNJ Agreement in place. It is vital that we get it ratified and implemented. Without areas beyond national jurisdiction, we will never get to a 30% of the ocean protected.”

Ambassador Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, Special Envoy of President Emmanuel Macron for the 3rd UN Ocean Conference, addressed participants to the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean presentation at the European Parliament on 14 February 2024 via video, focusing on the role of the European Union in championing ocean health: “Ocean protection must become the rule and not the exception in EU and Member States policies.”

Participants engaged in sound discussions on pressing issues such as the protection of the Southern Ocean; deep-sea mining; marine pollution; governance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); the role of criminal justice in combating ocean-related crimes; the elimination of harmful subsidies; and the protection of the Mediterranean, showcased as a test-case as the third UN Ocean Conference will take place at its shores.

Conversations underscored the interconnectedness of various challenges facing our ocean and the imperative for coordinated, multisectoral responses. All converged in the urgent need for action now.

Participants at the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean event at the European Parliament, 14 February 2024 (c) Anaïs Deprez, Ocean & Climate Platform

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