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Isabella Lövins öppningsanförande vid Havskonferensen


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Mr President of the General Assembly, Mr Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends of planet Ocean.

I would like to echo the gratitude expressed by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to all involved. We both hope that this conference will be the game-changer our ocean so badly needs. Fiji and the other Small Island Developing States have been critical in raising the ocean to the very top of the global agenda, and we are all much indebted to you for your tireless efforts and leadership.

Dear friends,
Have you ever heard of the global ocean conveyor belt? It is sort of our ocean bloodstream, connecting us all. It consists of huge underwater currents flowing from depths of thousands of meters and up to the near the surface – driven by difference in temperature our blue planet's rotation in space. By the North and South poles there are four large so called convection areas; kind of pumping cardiac muscles whereby the warm water coming from the equator cools down, becomes heavier and sinks to the depths. The amount of water cascading down at any given moment corresponds to 20 000 Niagara Falls.

20 000 Niagara Falls! Imagine what a tourist attraction if we could see them!

So, when the cold water from the poles reaches the bottom, the pace slows. It then drifts ever so slowly back towards the equator, where it wells up again, maybe a thousand years later, full of nutrition from organic material that has sunk to the deep seabed, which then becomes food for fish – fish that later become food for humans.
The ocean is more than 90 % of the living biosphere, it contains 1,3 billion cubic kilometers of water, it provides almost 50 % of the oxygen produced on the planet and mankind has always believed that it was endless, infinite, and that it would be utterly impossible for us humans to affect it in any significant way at all.

But we can. And we have.

The ocean is now 30% more acidic than in pre-industrial times. Big predatory fish stocks have declined by some 70-90 %. The surface waters are getting warmer. In some areas there are more microplastics than plankton.

A few years ago, an article spread like wildfire around the world. It was entitled The Ocean is Broken. It was an interview with an Australian yachtsman, who describes himself as an ordinary sailor – and definitely no environmentalist! – who sailed from Australia across the Pacific Ocean to the US west coast.

His name is Ivan Macfadyen. He had sailed exactly the same course ten years earlier, and at that time he had a pleasant trip across the ocean, always accompanied by seabirds, seeing dolphins and sharks and turtles, catching fish for supper every day.

But on the second voyage, he describes the ocean as a desert. The birds and dolphins were gone, and during the entire voyage Macfadyen only managed to catch two fishes. What he did see was rubbish – everywhere. Enormous amounts of rubbish, ranging from telegraph poles to toys, fishing nets to car tyres.

The only life he saw was gigantic trawlers, working day and night, glowing like cities on the horizon at night time. When Macfadyen is asked in the interview how all this made him feel, he says that it made him feel sick. Sick to his heart.

Just a few weeks ago we read about Henderson island, an uninhabited island in the Pacific, a UNESCO world heritage, where researchers found 38 million plastic items on the shores.

By now we know one thing for certain: the ocean is not endless. Not infinite. But it has no borders. It knows nothing about nations. It is just one united ocean.

On 5 June 1972, exactly 45 years ago, the first UN conference on the environment was opened in Stockholm. Back then, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made a landmark statement linking poverty to the environment and sparking great controversy.

Today, we all know that environmental protection and economic development are inseparable. Without a healthy planet, people will not prosper.

Sweden remains fully committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda and SDG 14, and calls upon all United Nations Member States – as well as other critical stakeholders, including business, civil society and academia – to harness this unique opportunity, and start working to make a real difference.

The ocean is the reason why I got involved in politics.
I was fortunate enough to be elected and to be able to play an active role in reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy, finally putting sustainability into legislation.

I thereby know change is possible, if there is political will. That´s the reason why I truly believe that this Ocean conference can be the gamechanger our Ocean so desperately needs. We know what needs to be done. We know the ocean is broken. We now need to sit together the next five days and make the long to-do list we all need to be ticking off, together in order to fix it. This is a moment and a better moment will never arrive.

Thank you.


Annika Flensburg
Pressekreterare hos minister för internationellt utvecklingssamarbete och klimat samt vice statsminister Isabella Lövin
Telefon (växel) 08-405 10 00