27 November 2022
By Tom Collins
President Michael D. Higgins was among the 160 guests at an event held in Cork on Friday to launch the European Union’s Mission to protect and restore ocean and inland waters in the Atlantic and Arctic regions by 2030. The National Maritime College of Ireland was the venue for the gathering which brought together Ministers and high-level representatives from Atlantic and Arctic countries, the Lord Mayor of Cork city with the Mayor of the County of Cork, and actors and stakeholders from government, academia, business and civil society.
The Mission to Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030 is one of five such missions being funded and supported by the €97bn EU Horizon Europe Programme. But while research will be a key part of the mission, success will depend on action and buy-in from citizens, businesses and decision makers. According to Dr. John Bell, Director of Healthy Planet at the European Commission’s DG Research & Innovation directorate, which manages the
Horizon Europe Programme, ‘we need to make peace with nature using all the means at our disposal using laws and programmes, science & innovation, and the will of the people to make things happen on the ground.”
The Mission is designed to deal with the severe threat to our ocean, coastal and inland waters that has been brought about by decades of pollution and human activity. At the Cork event, concrete measures and actions in the Atlantic-Arctic were highlighted to address the ambitious targets for the restoration of our ocean and seas by 2030, namely to:
Protect and restore marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity, in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030;
Prevent and eliminate pollution of our ocean, seas and waters, in line with the EU Action Plan Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil;
Make the sustainable blue economy carbon-neutral and circular, in line with the proposed European Climate Law and the holistic vision enshrined in the Sustainable Blue Economy Strategy.
Broad public mobilisation and engagement and a digital ocean and water knowledge system, known as Digital Twin Ocean, are cross-cutting enabling actions that will support these objectives.
In hosting this event, Ireland is hoping to lead the way in advancing the goals of the mission. Step one is to sign the Mission Charter, a commitment of intent that can be signed by any entity, from a small company to a university, a city council or a public authority.
Speaking at the event, Dr Paul Connolly, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute, said, “the mission Charter has been signed by the Marine Institute and the Mission is strongly supported by our Government. As a public organisation, the Marine Institute is committed to protect and restore biodiversity, prevent and eliminate pollution in our oceans and make the blue economy circular and carbon-neutral.”
The event in Cork marks the start of an accelerating programme of activities across the Atlantic and Arctic bordering countries and Europe that will be critical to deliver a healthier and more productive ocean upon which our current and future societies will depend.