Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the Future of the Oceans symposium, 28 June 2018

“Our oceans are under immense pressure – from climate change, from pollution, from over-fishing. It’s good that in 2015 the UN dedicated a Sustainable Development Goal especially to the world’s seas and oceans. Number 14: life below water. For the Netherlands, ‘life below water’ is a vital SDG. Not only because half of our population lives below sea level…”
Speech by minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen at the Ocean Summit ‘Future of the Oceans’ of the Volvo Ocean Race, 28 June 2018.

Commissioner Vella,
Deputy Mayor Van Tongeren,
Mr Huis in ’t Veld of our water top sector,
friends of the oceans,

What a race! The suspense this year was almost unbearable.
Nine months on the oceans and still almost a photo finish in Scheveningen...
Of course, for us, it’s a pity a Dutch team didn’t win.
But the first woman ever to win this prestigious round-the-world race – Carolijn Brouwer – is Dutch!
She sailed to a golden finish in her own home town. It doesn’t get much better than that…

Ladies and gentlemen,
The Netherlands was on the map this week! As a sporting nation. And as a country of water.
There’s a reason the Netherlands has good sailors.
For more than 400 years, we’ve been sailing the world’s oceans on the lookout for goods and trade.
We owe much of our prosperity to our strategic position on the North Sea, in the delta of three major European rivers.

Sailing has come a long way since we first took to the seas.
That’s clear from the high-tech sailing yachts that took part in this race. And the new 24-hour distance record set by Dutch boat Akzo Nobel on the Newport to Cardiff leg!
Unfortunately, the boats aren’t the only things that have changed. The oceans themselves are changing.
It’s fitting that the theme of this year’s Volvo Ocean Race is ‘Turn the Tide on Plastics’.

Because our oceans are under immense pressure – from climate change, from pollution, from over-fishing.
It’s good that in 2015 the UN dedicated a Sustainable Development Goal especially to the world’s seas and oceans. Number 14: life below water.
For the Netherlands, ‘life below water’ is a vital SDG. Not only because half of our population lives below sea level…

The Netherlands is dependent on the sea. Maritime shipping delivers 70% of our imports and 35% of exports.
Offshore wind farms deliver an increasingly large share of our energy needs.
If we do nothing, we’ll be one of the first countries to go under when sea levels rise.
It is through continuous innovation and collaborations like our Water and Maritime Top Sector that we keep our feet dry.

So it’s not surprising that we call loudly, at all international forums, for more sustainability, a circular economy and lower carbon emissions.
We’re also working hard on our part of the North Sea.
And we’re getting results!
Pollution is declining. Fish stocks are improving, even of threatened species. And there’s less litter on Dutch beaches.
We have a shared responsibility to use our blue planet sustainably.
That’s something every government, knowledge institution, company, NGO and individual will have to work on.

And that’s another reason why I’m glad to be here.
Because the Volvo Ocean Race brings together people from all countries, all walks of life, all sectors, and unites them around a common theme.
It’s vital that the world works together on this.
Because seas and oceans supply over half the world’s oxygen. They regulate the climate. And they’re key to a healthy food supply.
Climate agreements are of course the main instrument for cooperation.
Shipping wasn’t part of the Paris Agreement, but I don’t see that as an obstacle to getting the shipping industry on board!
In the Netherlands, we’re going to be agreeing a ‘Green Deal’ on shipping this year.
And we’re calling for stricter shipping emission standards at the International Maritime Organization.

It’s also important to move towards a circular economy.
The Netherlands aims to be completely circular by 2050.
This involves smart product design, so that raw materials don’t become worthless, get thrown away and end up in the ocean.
Re-design, re-cycle, re-use. In other words: re-think!
So I’m delighted with the European Commission’s proposal to ban single-use plastics.

And while we’re at it, let’s clean up the mess in our oceans!
Three weeks ago, my ministry proudly signed an agreement with The Ocean Cleanup on taking their first cleanup system to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
It’s a neat system, with drifting barriers to catch the plastic, and was devised five years ago by Dutch engineering student Boyan Slat.
The cleanup work starts by the end of this summer!

Ladies and gentlemen,
The Volvo Ocean Race has ended here in Scheveningen.
But it’s not the end of research on all the data collected by the teams, and all the experiences and knowledge presented at the six previous ocean summits.
For research, this event marks a new beginning.
It’s part of a broad range of research into the state of the world’s oceans.
We’re learning more all the time. And this new knowledge is priceless.

I’d like to end by quoting oceanographer and ‘Living Legend’ Sylvia Earle.
No water, no life. No blue, no green. We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.
Thank you.