SINGAPORE: Members of the United Nations (UN) "need to urgently scale up actions" to protect the ocean and mitigate the impacts of climate change, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said at the Second United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon on Tuesday (Jun 28).
Dr Balakrishnan, who is on a working visit to the Portuguese capital from Jun 27 to Jul 2, was delivering Singapore's national statement at the event.
He said that Singapore would be renewing the 10 voluntary commitments previously submitted at the first UN Oceans Conference and undertaking nine new ones.
As part of this, Singapore will launch three environmental research projects to enhance its understanding of the ocean. One of them relates to the sustainable management of marine fish populations, another studies the use of solar energy to facilitate coral growth, and the third project is a marine climate change science programme.
The country is also spearheading a transition towards the supply of environmentally friendly ship fuel, said Dr Balakrishnan.
Singapore is also actively involved in promoting green financing and building capacity in carbon accounting within the maritime industry, he added.
"We are also incentivising shipowners to switch to energy efficient technologies and low or zero carbon fuels through the award of the Singapore Registry of Ships Green Notation," he said.
The Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), which was launched in 1992 to share its development experience and extend technical assistance to fellow developing countries, will conduct three courses this year on International Law of the Sea, Managing Coastal Biodiversity under Urbanisation Pressures and Environmental Conservation and Sustainability, Dr Balakrishnan said.
He noted that over the past 30 years, the SCP has conducted over 50 ocean-related courses for more than 1,000 participants from over 100 countries.
Dr Balakrishnan said that the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean "must be conducted under the aegis of international law", in particular the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He added that Singapore believes that UNCLOS is the "legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out".
"Thanks to its drafters’ far-sightedness, the framework provided by UNCLOS is dynamic and highly adaptable in order to respond to emerging issues."
Dr Balakrishnan also called for UN member nations' efforts to be based on data and science.
"This will help us take more effective set of measures to conserve the ocean and to build consensus for global action.
"For example, the international community is only starting now to appreciate the ocean-climate nexus, in particular, how climate change affects the ocean’s health and how the ocean regulates the climate."
Dr Balakrishnan also said that multilateral cooperation must be the foundation of the UN's efforts.
"Member States must seize the opportunity that this Conference presents to reaffirm our commitment to placing a rules-based multilateral and coordinated approach at the heart of our management of the oceans."
He noted the ongoing negotiations on the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty.
"The BBNJ treaty will be grounded in UNCLOS and will strengthen multilateral cooperation, conservation and sustainability in the use of our global commons," said Dr Balakrishnan, adding that Singapore is honoured to serve as the President of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference.
He called on all delegations to work towards the conclusion of an "ambitious and future-proof" BBNJ treaty as soon as possible.
"Singapore is a tiny island, maritime city-state. Our history, our people, our economy are inseparable from the ocean. Our survival, our prosperity depend on the oceans," he said.
"In fact, the same applies to all people, even those from landlocked states. The ocean provides food, jobs and livelihood. It enables global trade, and it plays a vital role in the climate systems and the water cycle, and is an important reservoir of biodiversity."