Palau, in partnership with the Office of the Climate Envoy under the U.S State Department, has laid a 90-day challenge at COP26 calling for major initiatives to be prepared for announcement at the seventh ‘Our Ocean Conference’ on 16-17 February 2022.
The theme of the conference is ‘Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity.’
The last six Our Ocean Conferences (OOC) resulted in 1,400 individual commitments from countries, civil society, and industry committing to concrete and significant actions to protect the ocean.
Altogether these commitments are worth nearly US$100 billion.
As commitments are only as meaningful as their implementation, tracking progress and celebrating completion are important elements of the conference.
While encouraging new scaled-up commitments, Palau will focus on tracking the progress of past commitments ensuring these are delivered upon.
The 90-day challenge aims to build upon this, and the momentum that has grown at COP26 with initiatives that align to the OOC’s six areas of action: marine protected areas, sustainable blue economies, climate change, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and maritime security.
It was announced by the President of Palau Surangel Whipps Jr. at the “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity: A Challenge to Tackle the Ocean-Climate Crisis” event at COP26 with John Kerry, the U.S Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
“Our lives are inextricably connected with the ocean,” Whipps said.
“It regulates our climate; it regulates our weather, it generates half the oxygen that we use, and it provides food and livelihoods for the billions of people around the world.
“The ocean sustains all life on this planet and its health is critical and it is under serious threat.
“It really affects everything about our existence, this is especially striking for Palau and other great ocean states where the ocean is a key part of our culture and our lives.”
Whipps spoke of the Palauan culture and how it reflects the relationship between the people of Palau and the ocean.
He explained that the dates of the Our Ocean Conference were carefully selected as February 16 and 17, with the 17th as a full moon.
“The full moon, symbolised on the Palau flag, is a sign of blessing and prosperity in Palauan culture – marking the harvest season, and a time when new things are initiated.
“This is also a time when the tides are high, the world will see first-hand the impacts of sea-level rise on small islands like Palau.
The full moon will mark the conclusion of the conference, but more essentially, the importance of what lies ahead,” Whipps said.
Palau’s ocean conservation practices have extended thousands of years with the Bul, a cultural practice in which the Chiefs and leaders of the traditional community close off certain areas of the ocean to allow it to regenerate.
“51% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean and yet we humans are currently altering the chemistry of the ocean faster and more than it has been altered in millions of years,” John Kerry said.
“We’re changing the entire ecosystem – we don’t treat it as a system and it is, essential to live and essential to our victory in the climate crisis.
“There are key elements of the choices we face as human beings, for instance, we have to care about what’s in the ocean, what’s on the ocean, what we’re putting in the ocean, and what we’re taking out of the ocean.”
The commitment from Palau to host the OOC, originally scheduled for 2020 yet delayed due to Covid-19, remains.
Panama will be the host of the eighth Our Ocean Conference in 2023.
This story was published at RNZ Pacific on 10 November 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.