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Minister Barbara Pompili,
Minister Dy Ould Zein,
Ladies and gentlemen,
we all depend on healthy oceans. They act as an important carbon sink and regulate the climate. They are home to unique plants and animals, link our countries and continents, and provide food and energy. However, overfishing, pollution and huge amounts of plastic waste are also the reality. Much of what we do as humans endangers the natural functions of the oceans. Swift, decisive action is required so that these special wellsprings of life are not permanently destroyed.
This is why marine conservation will be an issue of outstanding importance for me and the entire German government in the next few years.
I will start a campaign that brings together all aspects of marine conservation to balance protection of the oceans with their sustainable use. As a part of this, the German Environment Ministry is working on a binding government-wide marine strategy. In future, coordination of marine policy will be headed up by a marine commissioner, which will send a very clear signal.
This marine campaign also requires ambitious international oceans policy. Global crises like biodiversity loss and marine pollution can only be tackled by the international community working in concert.
I would like to highlight three areas where action is needed:
Firstly, Germany is working with its partners to swiftly conclude UN negotiations on a convention for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of the high seas. We must continue working together for new marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, particularly in the Weddell Sea and East Antarctica. These are the last mostly untouched marine areas on the planet, which provide irreplaceable habitat for many species.
Secondly, I attach great importance to quickly beginning negotiations on a legally binding UN agreement to combat marine litter and plastic pollution. The result must put a comprehensive and definitive end to marine litter. I will work for this in the UNEA meeting at the end of February. Germany will also use its G7 Presidency to advance global marine conservation.
Thirdly, there is a great deal to do on our own doorstep with implementing the European and regional targets in marine conservation. The EU Biodiversity Strategy requires us to place 30 percent of Europe’s marine area under protection by 2030. It is key here that the EU marine protected areas are genuine places of refuge for marine flora and fauna.
We can only succeed if harmful uses of the oceans are limited. In Germany, the management plans for the protected areas in the Baltic Sea have just entered into force. This means concrete measures can now be taken – for example to reduce underwater noise, restore reefs, encourage nature-friendly fishing methods and make the water cleaner. Over 30 percent of the German EEZ in the North and Baltic Seas is now protected.
I want to increase the use of nature-based solutions, on shore and at sea, because they can have a leverage effect for biodiversity conservation and climate action. This is why I plan to start a programme for carbon-storing ecosystems in the seas, promoting, for example, seagrass beds and kelp forests. This gives marine creatures and their habitats the opportunity to recover and, at the same time, better fend off the impacts of climate change.
I want 2022 to be the year that marine conservation moves forward on all levels – national, European and international. With this conference, France has provided a wonderful platform for marine conservation. Thank you for this. I look forward to working together with our partner France and all of you on the many tasks in store.
Thank you very much.