Because the Ocean, High-Level Event, COP22

  • Speech, check against delivery

Your Serene Highness, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to represent Australia at this event – "Because the Ocean" is the foundation of life on earth.

Australia is an island continent – the only country to be so – bound by the magnificent Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans.

Around 85 per cent of our population lives within 50 kilometres of our breathtaking coastline and our stunning beaches. Our maritime zone is the third largest in the world.

Today Australia has the largest representative network of marine protected areas in the world, stretching from our tropical north to the sub-Antarctic in the south. The ocean is utterly central to our national identity.

A major global threat facing coral reefs is climate change.

Here in Marrakesh, COP22 is an 'action' COP - where we seek to translate the historic Agreement in Paris into concrete results and outcomes.

Australia ratified the Agreement last week and will actively and fully implement its terms.

Coral reefs are among the most valuable environments on our planet.

They support more biodiversity than almost any other ecosystem, are vital to the world's fisheries, protect our coastlines and generate significant tourism revenue.

Worldwide more than thirty coral reefs are listed as World Heritage sites.

They are of immense value, yet are particularly susceptible to the impact of climate change.

There has been much attention given this year to the significant coral bleaching event that occurred around the world, caused by a particularly strong El Niño event that compounded the changes we are already seeing in our climate.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef – one of the world's greatest natural treasures – has been affected.

This global bleaching event has highlighted the urgency of taking action on climate change – action at a global level; but also action at a local level as we respond to the damage caused.

We have experience to share, as we are regarded as a world leader in reef management.

Our responsibility for managing the Great Barrier Reef is not an insignificant task, given the Reef is the size of Germany or Italy, and the only living organism that can be seen from outer space.

Last year, Australia launched the Reef 2050 Plan – a 35 year strategy to build upon our past efforts and adapt to evolving challenges.

We are committing substantial funding to the protection of the Reef - $2 billion over the next decade plus a $1 billion Reef Fund.

We are also driving innovation in our management practices.

For example, we are exploring ways for private investors to support Reef conservation, and supporting innovations that will boost farm productivity while reducing nutrient runoff.

The Reef 2050 Plan has been internationally recognised as world's best practice.

We are seeking to strengthen international cooperation by sharing information among countries to ensure the best possible response to the threats of climate change.

We are pleased that under the chairmanship of France and Madagascar, with strong Australian support, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) last week agreed a new Plan of Action to strengthen international action and cooperation on best practice reef management.

This is particularly meaningful for Australia because, with six others, we founded ICRI more than two decades ago and we continue to support the purpose and invaluable work of ICRI.

Under the new Plan of Action, ICRI has committed to:

  • raise its focus on climate change;
  • address the human threats to reefs and associated mangroves;
  • better monitor the state of our reefs world-wide; and
  • promote public awareness of the role of reefs in marine ecosystems.

This is a powerful commitment to action, backed by the best expertise the world has to offer.

As with the Paris Agreement, global cooperation on the preservation of our reefs offers the best prospect of success.

Australia is committed to do our part – "Because the Ocean" matters.

Thank you.

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