Today, in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize has been presented to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to Al Gore. They are being awarded the prize for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract or mitigate such change.
The IPCC’s fourth assessment report points to a number of disturbing trends. According to the best available scientific knowledge it has now been established that it is “very likely” that greenhouse gases are the major driver of increasing temperatures. Eleven of the last twelve years have been the warmest on record since 1850. Ocean temperatures are rising to a depth of 300 metres. Global temperatures are expected to rise at an average rate of some 0.2 degrees C per decade. Some of the consequences will be a rise in sea level, a decline in the extent of sea ice in the polar regions, and major changes to ecosystems.
The rise in sea level will have severe impacts on coastal communities. Changes in oceanographic conditions may affect the productivity of ecosystems. The migratory distribution patterns of species may change.
The consequences of climate change – and of ocean acidification - can be dramatic for the marine environment and ecosystems. Climate change may prove to be the biggest challenge to fisheries all over the world in the next few decades. Doing nothing is not an option. We need further studies, as our understanding of this is currently very limited. And we need to consider how we should adapt ocean management to climate change.
Let me draw your attention to a part of the world where we are already seeing clear evidence of the effects of climate change, namely the Arctic. According to scientific data, there has been a significant persistent downward trend in the extent of summer sea ice over the past fifty years. In September this year, the area of sea ice was only just over half of what it was in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Arctic Ocean is about to undergo dramatic change. Melting ice is having significant impacts on vulnerable ecosystems, the livelihoods of local inhabitants, and opportunities of exploiting natural resources. The rapid melting of sea ice is having dramatic consequences for animals such as polar bears, walruses and seals. The changing ice-conditions are also having an impact on navigation, extending the navigation period and probably opening new shipping routes.
At the invitation of the Norwegian Government, representatives of the five coastal States of the Arctic Ocean - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the US - met at senior-official level on 15 and 16 October 2007 in Oslo for informal discussions.
They recalled the applicability of an extensive international legal framework to the Arctic Ocean, including notably the law of the sea. They discussed in particular application and national implementation of the law of the sea in relation to protection of the marine environment, freedom of navigation, marine scientific research and the establishment of the outer limits of their respective continental shelves. They discussed cooperative efforts on these and other topics. They also emphasized the commitment of their States to continue cooperation among themselves and with other interested States, including on scientific research.
Commercial fisheries may extend into more northerly areas of the Arctic in the future. The States concerned should begin now to consider how to effectively implement the principles and rules set out in the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement implementing the Convention on the Law of the Sea, including any future need for appropriate mechanisms.
Nature provides the basis of our existence. A natural environment with a rich biological diversity adapts easier to change. In Johannesburg in 2002, world leaders committed themselves to significantly reducing the loss of biological diversity by 2010. However, too little has been done in the way of practical and effective measures to implement the existing legal framework and protect marine biodiversity. For example, many coastal States have not yet established a representative network of effectively managed marine protected areas within their own national jurisdiction. Norway aims to have such a network in place well before 2010. We need better mapping of the seabed, and to improve knowledge of the vulnerability of different habitats to existing environmental pressures and those that are likely to arise in the future. Norway believes that there is an urgent need to implement the ecosystem approach and apply the precautionary principle to the management of human activities to ensure conservation and sustainable use of the living marine resources.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries and destructive fishing practices are amongst the most immediate and serious threats to marine biodiversity. This includes bottom trawling on vulnerable habitats like coral reefs. These practices occur in areas within as well as beyond national jurisdiction. There is an urgent need to address such abuses of oceans effectively. Norway has taken steps to implement the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing and we urge States that have not yet done so to take all appropriate steps in this context. We look forward to the completion of the technical guidelines including standards for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas that are being developed by FAO.
The establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles is a crucial element in our implementation of the global law of the sea regime. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is playing an essential role in this work. The delineation process may help to clarify the legal framework for future offshore shelf activities and also has significant development implications. For many States, the deadline for submitting documentation to the Commission is May 2009. We are concerned that not all States have made sufficient preparations to meet this deadline. Doubts concerning unresolved bilateral delimitation questions, financial and practical challenges related to data collection and analysis, should not constitute undue obstacles for initiating preparations.
We realise that developing countries face particular challenges in preparing submissions, but if they make use of internationally available data, available expertise and existing funding mechanisms, they should be able to meet the deadlines. In order to enable least developed countries in particular to make submissions, we need to find practical solutions. Norway has therefore prepared a draft informal discussion paper that we are providing as food for thought for this important discussion (paper attached to this statement). We are looking forward to continuing our dialogue on this issue with other States.
Norway was instrumental in the establishment of the UN Trust Fund for the purpose of facilitating the preparation of submissions to the Commission. The Trust Fund has not been widely used, so we welcome the adoption of new procedures to simplify the access to it. We commend the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) for its efforts in this regard and recognise its very important role in helping developing countries to seek assistance in preparing submissions. We also recognise that additional resources will be needed to enable the Division to provide adequate support for the work of the Commission, and request the Secretary General to ensure the Division is given sufficient resources.
Our oceans are changing. More than ever are we required to take concerted and effective action to implement the Law of the Sea regime, as reflected in the UN Law of the Sea Convention. We already have the tools at our disposal. Let us use them to the full for the benefit of the entire international community.
How to Meet the 2009 Deadline - Discussion Paper.pdf