Let me begin by extending my thanks and gratitude to France, the High Seas Alliance, and the IUCN for hosting this beautiful reception.
One week ago, the nations of the world gathered in Nairobi and agreed to launch the most significant effort since the Paris Agreement to address environmental impacts. I stated then that it is the beginning of the end of the scourge of plastic on this planet.
I stand here tonight, hoping for similar progress and collaboration. Hoping that this is finally the year we reach an agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).
This has been a long time coming — a discussion that started over 15 years ago and a negotiation that has faced significant delays due to the pandemic. We appreciate your stalwart effort in continuing to see this through to completion.
And we are here tonight, because we – all of us here – are passionate about the ocean and committed to seeing this monumental agreement come to fruition.
The conclusion of a strong and effective BBNJ agreement is a priority for the United States. This negotiation represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset our relationship with the high seas.
The chance, for the first time, to take a coordinated and cross-sectoral approach to establishing marine protected areas in areas beyond our national jurisdictions.
This agreement will be needed to achieve the goal of conserving or protecting 30 percent of the global ocean by 2030, a goal that is vitally important for addressing both our climate and biodiversity crises. It is a goal that the Biden Administration is committed to achieving.
This is why it is crucial that we reach an agreement this year. The ocean cannot afford further delay, and neither can we.
Last month, the One Ocean Summit – also organized by our gracious hosts tonight – restarted the super-year for the ocean and nature.
This is a year in which there are many opportunities for those of us who are committed to sustaining a healthy ocean to continue working together to drive progress and ambition.
In April, the United States is pleased to partner with Palau to host the Our Ocean Conference. And we hope to see many of you there.
In June, we’ll come together for the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon.
And in November, the climate COP in Egypt will again prioritize the ocean-climate nexus.
We have a long journey ahead and much more work to do, but we are grateful to have all of you as partners on this voyage.
We know that the future health of our ocean depends on its protection, and the United States is committed to seeing the successful completion of BBNJ.