Leaders commit to action at Our Ocean Conference

All life on Earth relies on a thriving ocean, which is why world leaders gathered in Palau April 13–14 for the seventh Our Ocean Conference.

“As with climate action on land, progress on ocean protection ultimately hinges on political will,” said Palau President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry in a joint statement. “It is worth reminding ourselves that, at the end of the day, we are all connected by the ocean.”

Cohosted by Palau and the United States, the conference included more than 600 representatives of governments, civil society, research institutions and the private sector from around the world. Topics included:

  • Combating the climate crisis.
  • Promoting sustainable fisheries.
  • Creating sustainable blue economies.
  • Advancing marine protected areas.
  • Achieving a safe and secure ocean.
  • Confronting marine pollution.

Participants announced more than 400 new commitments to protect the ocean worth $16.35 billion. Commitments from all seven Our Ocean Conferences now total nearly $108.7 billion.

At Palau, the United States, Denmark and the Marshall Islands announced they had doubled the number of signatories to the Declaration on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050.

The United States also announced a framework on green shipping corridors — maritime routes that showcase low- and zero-emission fuels and technologies, aiming to achieve zero-greenhouse-gas emissions across all aspects of the corridor by no later than 2050.

“Shipping would be the eighth largest emitter if it were a ‘country,’ and by 2050, emissions from the sector are projected to increase by up to 50% from 2018 levels under a business-as-usual scenario,” says a State Department announcement.

Participants also committed serious new resources to the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, with nearly $250 million pledged through policy, governance, on-the-water assets, technical assistance and innovative forms of monitoring and traceability.

Other notable commitments include:

  • The United Kingdom increased its target for offshore wind deployment to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, with an ambition for 5 GW to come from floating offshore wind.
  • The European Union and the United Kingdom each committed more than $130 million to upgrade fisheries and aquaculture value chains.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization pledged to provide $53 million to fund similar work in small island developing states.
  • Australia announced $700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Green Climate Fund announced an anchor commitment of up to $125 million to fight coral-reef degradation.
  • South Korea announced $100 million per year to address plastics pollution.

The United States announced more than 100 commitments, totaling more than $2.6 billion, including $160 million to support coastal resilience through the National Coastal Resilience Fund.

“We still do have time to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. We can still secure a healthy ocean,” Kerry said during his closing remarks. “We can create millions of jobs and trillion-dollar new industries. And we can still reach a cleaner, safer, less polluted planet for all of us.”