June 06, New York: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe delivering a passionate statement to the UN Ocean Conference at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday urged the world to act fast to preserve the oceans and combat the climate change.
Speaking at the first ever high-level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, the Premier said Sri Lanka, a signatory to the Paris Agreement, is particularly vulnerable to the impact of ocean environments and climate change.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was among a select group of Heads of State and Government who spoke on the first day of the week-long Conference, which is expected to be a game changer in global efforts to reverse the decline in the health of the oceans.
Urging the international community to implement Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the Oceans, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka has been devastated by nature driven tragedies.
Speaking about the recent devastation in the country, he said that floods, landslides, the massive Tsunami of 2004 and other disasters have wrecked Sri Lanka over the years.
"For nations like my own, the oceans are life and death. The Indian Ocean, in which we are located, provides employment, food, avenues of trade and commerce. Our large coastal communities survive at ocean level. For us, rise of the seas, pollution of the oceans, depletion of fish, good coastal eco systems are not abstractions - they are the core of our existence," the Premier said.
The Prime Minister said the outcome of the conference is so important since the world has a long way to go to reach the optimum level of global environmental sustainability.
"The oceans constitute about 70 percent of the earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the earth’s water. If we do not make more progress on the oceans, the seas and maritime resources, all our other environment efforts will be difficult, if not impossible to achieve. In many ways then, this has vital significance for the future of humankind," he added.
He called for private public partnerships to fund the efforts to preserve ocean resources as Government financing and philanthropic support will not be sufficient for the commitments to become reality.
"For Alongside corrective measures and technical developments, we need to create a sustainable ocean economy, new blue -industries including off-shore renewables, marine technologies, aqua cultures, clean-up and transition activities. Government financing and philanthropic support Government financing and philanthropic support will probably be insufficient and we will have to encourage creative private public partnerships and other means to unlock commercial capital," the Premier said.
"These are ways in which we can mobilize new stakeholders and collaborators whose support will help ensure broader constituency for our endeavors," he added.
The Oceans Conference co-hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden coincides with World Oceans Day commemorated on June 8 and includes in its program seven themed partnership dialogues. The Sri Lanka delegation will also make statements at two partnership dialogues conducted under the themes, "managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coast ecosystems" and "making fisheries sustainable."