Our Ocean Conference opens in Palau


The Our Ocean Conference opened this morning in Palau with more than 500 delegates from more than 80 nations taking part.

Palau and the United States are co-hosting the conference which was seen as a key global event for countries, civil society, and industry to commit to concrete and significant actions to protect the ocean.

This is the seventh year of the conference and the first time it’s been held in the Pacific region.

Security around the venue was tight with roads around the conference site closed.

The conference was opened by Palau’s president Surangel Whipps Jr and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

Earlier, Kerry declared the US Embassy in Palau as the first net zero United States mission in the world.

Kerry and Whipps Jr and unveiled the new solar array which will provide 100 percent of the embassy’s power needs.

During the ceremony, Kerry mentioned the latest IPCC climate report and what scientists have said.

“The world is being warned by scientists that are telling us that it is a matter of mathematic, physics not ideology not politics but the facts are telling us what is happening to our planet. 90 percent of the heating of the planet goes into the ocean,” he said.

Aotearoa’s commitment

The New Zealand government is committing US$3 million towards climate change assessment.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aupito William Sio, made the announcement at the conference.

He said the funds would go to the University of the South Pacific and the University of Canterbury.

Aupito said the framework for the fund is still being worked through.

Northern Marianas wants strong ocean policies

Meanwhile, a Northern Marianas representative at the Our Ocean Conference wants to see strong ocean policies and commitments from leaders and key stakeholders.

Representive Sheila Babauta said there was a number of challenges facing the CNMI when it comes to the ocean.

In 2021, Babauta introduced a joint resolution condemning Japan’s plan to dump treated nuclear waste from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

“We have a long history of militarisation in the CNMI and the build-up is increasing. This forces me to think of the impact of militarisation and the toxic chemicals, the damage that it has done to Coral reefs,” she said.

Cooks youth delegate wants to see more research

A Pacific youth delegate at the conference said he’s keen to see more research on the potential environmental degredation on seabed mining.

Antony Vavia was a speaker on the Indigenous-led Conservation panel at the conference.

He said one of the important things for the Cook Islands is trying to bring attention to issues around their waters.

Antony Vavia said sedbed mining is an issue that can not be ignored.

Source: RNZ Pacific