Ms. Deputy Prime Minister
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege to be with you today and participate in this momentous event, and especially in the evocative World Ocean Day ceremony that started it. The ceremony reminded me of the centuries-old relationship of Italy with the seas that has been celebrated in Venice every year since the 12th century with the “Marriage with the Sea” Festival. Originally intended as a supplication to the sea to remain calm and quiet for those who sailed on it, it evolved into a nuptial ceremony between Venice and its lagoon to mark the binding and eternal relationship between people and the seas.
Today we are able to scientifically explain the nature of this relationship and predict what will happen to the people of this planet if it is transformed from healthy and sustainable to unhealthy and predatory. Two and a half years ago, Mr. President, we began a journey together to halt this transformation. We fought for a Sustainable Development Goal on the Oceans and Seas and its targets; we launched a campaign in favor of conservation and protection; we set the example as to Marine Protected Areas, and together with a growing number of Member States and institutions, we launched the 10×20 Initiative.
The Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans and Seas calls upon us to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. How Mr. President, did all the countries in the world come to realize that the oceans and seas are a natural capital of all, not to be squandered by a few? To this aim so many have worked very hard. In 2014 and 2015 alone, Member States and organizations relentlessly advocated, by means of events and symposia, the universal character of the Oceans and Seas as providers of livelihood and employment for all. They also highlighted the central role of the Oceans and Seas in safeguarding the planet from the worst consequences of carbon emissions by eliminating much of the CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Italy is proud to have joined in this effort. The Goal on Oceans and Seas is now known as SDG14, and is an integral part of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Its attainment is seen as crucial to the well-being of the people of the Earth, as ending poverty and hunger, reducing persistent inequalities among people and acting with urgency to combat the impacts of climate change. SDG 14 is a building block of the architecture of the future. As for all the other Sustainable Development Goals, the Agenda has crafted for SDG 14 a number of targets that will be part of the milestones of our journey towards sustainable development and a better life for all.
The SDG14 targets demand that, within a specific time-frame, we prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds; that we protect and conserve marine and coastal ecosystems and restore their health; that we halt ocean acidification and overfishing; that we eliminate harmful subsidies and help the SIDS increase the economic benefits they derive from the oceans. The time-frame to reach these targets is 2020 to 2030, but for most, success will be difficult to measure. One target however – Target 14.5: “By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information” – is a measurable numerical objective that can be attained in a relatively short period of time. It is a cornerstone of SDG14 and achieving it will have a significant impact on all the others.
It is specifically to reach this target that Italy, together with the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance and thanks to the vision of late Ambassador Stuart Beck, has launched the 10×20 Initiative. Under this initiative eminent marine scientists were called to Rome last March to advise policy makers as to how we can best fulfill Target 5. Through the Rome Call to Action, adopted on that occasion, the world’s awareness has been raised on the imperative of acting soon – now – on conservation and protection of the Oceans and Seas. We are now working on practical steps to contribute to the achievement of the target, as for instance a “toolkit” for the establishment of marine protected areas. We have allocated funds to assist other countries in strategic and preparatory activities that can lead to the creation of MPAs, following the example of our support to the Ocean Sanctuary in Palau, and we will continue our efforts to mobilize further resources.
With its great variety of ecosystems, Italy is Europe’s leading country for biodiversity of flora and fauna. As a founding member of the GLISPA Partnership, our country is promoting conservation and sustainable utilization of island natural resources that support people, cultures and livelihoods in their island homes around the world. Starting with the Pacific SIDS Partnership almost a decade ago, which has led to other partnerships in the Caribbean and other regions, Italy has been supporting SIDS and other vulnerable countries in tackling their greatest challenge of the coming decades, that is, how to halt and remedy the many losses caused by climate change.
We have made progress since the adoption of the SAMOA Pathway; we have made progress since the first One Ocean symposium that we organized with you, President Remengesau, in February 2014; we have made progress in awareness since the SIDS first raised issues of security and climate change. Much more remains to be done to fulfill the promise contained in Agenda 2030 and the Paris Accord. Italy will do its part. Using the same words the UN Secretary-General kindly addressed to us on the World Environment Day, the United Nations will be able to count on Italy’s continued environmental leadership, and we are looking forward to contribute to building a future of peace and prosperity on a healthy planet.
I invite all of you to join Italy in this quest, in particular in the effort to maintain the health of the Oceans and Seas as providers of livelihood for the peoples of this Earth and as guardians of the Earth climate.