9th Our Ocean Conf’ in Athens- An Ocean of Potential Explored

Apr 18, 2024 | News and Media

Greece was the proud host of the 9th Our Ocean Conference, an international event of global engagement, held in Athens, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, on the 16th and 17th of April, 2024. The Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit was held parallel to the main conference, starting the day before.

Bringing together governments and non-state actors to make concrete commitments to protect ocean health and security since 2014, the “Our Ocean conferences” have mobilized thousands of commitments worth more than $130 billion.

The intrinsic role of the Our Ocean Conferences institution was highlighted by the United States’ first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, who stressed that “46% of all implemented Marine Protected Areas have been announced during the ‘Our Ocean Conferences”. Moreover, according to research conducted by the State University of Oregon, 72% of the commitments made since 2014 have been completed and real progress is happening through those completed promises.

With over 3,500 participants from 130 countries and international organisations, the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Greece closed with 469 new commitments worth over an estimated $11 billion.

To enhance cooperation among participants, OOC-9 hosted 76 important side events and more that 180 bilateral meetings. Another novelty was that the Greek iteration of the “Our Ocean Conferences” addressed four new critical dimensions, ushering in a holistic approach to maritime protection, while at the same time heralding transition to a Blue Economy.

The four new pillars are: 

  • Sustainable tourism in coastal areas & islands
  • Reduction of marine plastic and microplastic pollution
  • Green shipping
  • Green transition in the Mediterranean

Furthermore, OOC-9’s resounding success laid the foundations for the creation of a permanent Secretariat for the needs of the institution of the ‘Our Ocean Conferences’. The Secretariat will operate under the World Resources Institute.

During the Conference, the impact of our collective efforts remained strong and focused not only on environmental protection but also on regulation, namely the promotion of the ratification of the “Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction” (BBNJ Agreement). It is an agreement of critical importance in the race for ocean biodiversity protection by 2030. Let it be noted that the ninth iteration of the Conference was also the first after the BBNJ Agreement was signed.

Greece pledged to implement twenty-one measures, with a total budget of more than $800 million

  • covering six main areas: 1. Marine Protected Areas, 2. Sustainable Blue Economy, 3. Tackling Climate Change, 4. Maritime Safety, 5. Sustainable Fisheries and 6. Marine Pollution. Greek commitments also include the creation of two marine parks in the Aegean and the Ionian, which will be among the largest in the Mediterranean and will be monitored in real time, through state-of-the-art technology.
  • Moreover, the country becomes the first in Europe to ban bottom trawling in all of its national marine parks and protected areas, while it commits to remove plastic litter in the water by 50% and microplastic by 30% by 2030 (relatively to 2019).
  • The Greek Prime Minister has also announced the launch of a dedicated Decarbonization Fund for Greek islands paid for by allowances from the European Emissions System. This fund, depending on the price of carbon, could ultimately be worth €2 billion.
  • Greece leads the way in the decarbonization of world shipping, an industry where Greek-owned fleet has a significant contribution in the global circulation of goods. The Conference hosted a series of side events focusing on this particular issue, where it was highlighted that, on one hand innovative technology can indeed upgrade the industry’s environmental footprint and that the role of women in Blue Economy and Ocean Governance can be highly influential.

Finally, the European Union announced forty commitments totaling an impressive $3.7 billion, out of which, close to $2 billion are earmarked in favor of Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Poland and Portugal to support investments and reforms in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

Throughout the Conference, it was highlighted that in order for global leadership to act upon tackling catastrophic climate change, the ocean should be its starting point. For the Hellenic Republic, environmental protection -especially in the form of maritime security, climate crisis mitigation and regulation- is considered a key priority in its candidacy for a seat at the United Nations Security Council, for the 2025/26 biennium. In this context, the 9th Our Ocean Conference provided an excellent opportunity for Greece to establish its position as a veritable custodian of our natural wealth, advocating the need for change, all for the betterment of this world.

The 9th Our Ocean Conference has ended, but the “Our Ocean” wave continues in 2025, in South Korea.

SEA you there!