World leaders gather in Palau for 7th Ocean Conference
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Koror — Palau and the United States opened the 7th Our Ocean Conference (OOC) today, marking the first time this event has been held in a small island developing state (SIDS).
For SIDS, this underscores the critical role and leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities in tackling the climate change and ocean crises.
Palau and the United States organized this gathering of more than 500 representatives from foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, academic and research institutions, the private sector, and civil society organizations.
Among the participants is a special group of youth delegates who are showcasing their leadership and youth-led initiatives for ocean action.
President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. and U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry, who are co-hosting the conference, opened the conference, highlighting the Pacific’s long history of ocean stewardship, and called on participants to confront the challenges of the global climate-ocean crisis with a new level of urgency.
In a joint statement, Whipps and Kerry noted, “As governments around the world work to sustainably rebuild their economies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we would do well to remember that the ocean holds as many opportunities for resilient low-carbon growth as can be found on land.”
The conference, titled “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity,” focuses on combating climate change, promoting sustainable fisheries, creating sustainable blue economies, advancing marine protected areas, achieving a safe and secure ocean, and tackling marine pollution.
The importance of ocean-based climate solutions and the centrality of a healthy ocean to small island developing states—and all places where the ocean is a primary source of sustenance—will be cross-cutting themes throughout the conference.
“Our Ocean” is a signature platform to mobilize support for ocean action. The six previous conferences have garnered more than 1,400 commitments worth approximately $91.4 billion and protecting more than five million square miles of the ocean.
Major new commitments from foreign governments, industry leaders, and philanthropies are expected to add to this year’s momentum and progress.
"As with climate action on land, progress on ocean protection ultimately hinges on political will. It is worth reminding ourselves that, at the end of the day, we are all connected by the ocean,” Whipps and Kerry added.