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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas on the occasion of the signing of the Belém Statement

Lisbon, 13 July 2017

Minister(s) Heitor, Vitorino, Kassab, Pandor, Deputy Minister Dimov, ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning, and welcome to today's conference.

It is my real pleasure to welcome you today to Lisbon and to host this event. I am particularly proud of the setting, which could not be more relevant. Portugal's history is so intertwined with the history of the Atlantic Ocean. My first memories as a child are overlooking the ocean with my father hand in hand.

My father used to tell me stories about the oceans, scientists and philosophers. Today the story of Alexander Von Humboldt comes to mind. In the 19th century, he discarded a life of privilege and spent his inheritance on a five year exploration of Latin America. When he returned, his suitcases were filled with thousands of astronomical and geological observations; he had hundreds of sketches, dozens upon dozens of notebooks, and more than 60,000 plant specimens.

Humboldt is famous for many things. But one of the most striking is that he was one of the first people to state that all lands bordering the Atlantic Ocean were once connected. For me, when I think of Humboldt the word that most often comes to mind is connectivity. When he died in 1859, he was arguably the last great polymath. He didn't just investigate nature with scientific methods; he looked at art, history, literature, and economics. He believed in the free exchange of information and he fostered communication across disciplines.

He lived at a time when his scientific peers were classifying the world into categories and taxonomic units. Yet, Humboldt saw things differently. He searched for global patterns and connections. His most important insight was that Earth was one great living organism in which everything was connected: the concept we today call ecosystem. He wrote "In this great chain of causes and effects, no single fact can be considered in isolation".

This approach was new. It was radical at the time. And it made him one of the great heroes of naturalism of the 20th century.

Humboldt's spirit resonates here, today. Regardless of what side of the Atlantic we find ourselves on, we are all connected by it. We need to stop seeing our scientific motives as different. We also need to acknowledge that the ocean is not isolated in its existence. That the ocean affects the land and the air and that in turn they all affect one another.

Today, by signing the Belem Statement, we are continuing on the work of Humboldt. We are stating that a cross-border, cross-disciplinary approach is the only way that we can effectively and sustainably use our shared resource.

And through this signature and especially through the months and months of work leading to today carried out by teams all around the Atlantic, we are putting international cooperation into practice.

Diplomacy is not only what takes place at the G20 or at European Council meetings.

What we are doing today is diplomacy in action. We built the foundations for this cooperation, we are putting in concrete resources and we have clear deliverables.

This captures at its best what I mean by Open Science and Open to the World.

Today, I want to talk to you about three things: the What, the Why and the How of all this

First, what's the concrete meaning of this statement.

Second, why we have come together to support it.

And third, how are we going to implement it.

First, what is the Belem Statement, and what does it mean?

Today at the 'A New Era of Blue Enlightenment' Conference we are here to discuss the role of research and innovation of the ocean. And the highlight of today is the signing of the Belem Statement on Atlantic Research and Innovation Cooperation.

The three parties signing the Belem Statement (the European Union, South Africa and Brazil) have committed to form a partnership to better understand and deepen our scientific knowledge of marine ecosystems. This doesn't just mean the Ocean. It means the Atlantic's relationship with climate change, to food, to potential energy systems and how it is interlinked with both the Antarctic and the Arctic. This means that the Belem Statement goes beyond the ocean.

We will focus on areas of common interest, which include climate, ocean observation, food security, fisheries management, and ocean technology.

Finally, the Belem Statement has the potential to multiply. We expect the alliance to become a global model inspiring others to follow in our footsteps in cooperation and open science in each of our regions. As Humboldt himself said, Collaboration operates through a process in which the successful intellectual achievements of one person arouse the intellectual passions and enthusiasms of others.

So for me the Belem Statement is about putting together the pieces of a puzzle where the ocean is at the centre but the impact is global.

To my second point - Why?We do this because the Atlantic Ocean is incredibly vast in challenges and opportunities. Alone, each country working separately, we cannot face the problems or harness these opportunities. They don't have national borders.

If we look at the challenges, at the top of the list is climate change. Ocean monitoring and forecasting for climate change must be a collective effort. Collecting and analysing data from one side of the Atlantic is not enough.

Marine litter is another example of a problem that can only be solved through international cooperation. It can cause serious losses to wildlife habitats, shipping and tourism. The Economist ran an article last month on this very topic stating that there are 5 trillion bits of plastic in the ocean and that by the middle of the century the sea could contain more plastic than fish by weight. This is unacceptable!

Recently, there's been a lot of noise in the media about Henderson Island. For those of you who have not heard, it is an uninhabited island in the South Pacific where it is estimated that there are 38 million pieces of plastic washed up on its shores. So we cannot be complacent.

But the ocean is not just about the threats we need to address. The Belem Statement also looks to the opportunities the Atlantic can provide us with and how cooperation can realise this potential.

Right now, we are only scraping the surface of the richness of the oceans. Think about the potential protein sources we could derive from the sea. On a planet where the population is expected to rise by 2 billion within the next thirty years, we could use all the extra food sources we can get.

For this same reason, pharmaceuticals are another area we need to increase our scientific investment in. The ocean has the potential to provide the next wave of pharmaceutical products and could revolutionise human medicinal care.

Energy is another example. As we move towards a clean energy system globally, the power of the ocean is a huge tool. These are all direct examples. But the indirect economic benefit is untold. Even now, globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year.

To my third and final point: How are we going to do this?

The Belem Statement does not just represent good intentions. It comes with concrete actions

First, it demonstrates clear steps that we are taking to build upon the Galway Statement that was signed in 2013. The Galway statement formed a clear basis for a key partnership towards a healthy, productive, secure and resilient North Atlantic Ocean. And I am proud to say that we are complementing its work by signing the Belem Statement today linking the North to the South. It is not about the South or the North. It is about the Atlantic.

Secondly, I'm very happy to announce that the European Commission will invest over €60 million under Horizon 2020 from 2018-2019 in calls for proposals dedicated to research in the Atlantic. This will go towards assessing ecosystems, seafloor mapping and developing innovative aquaculture systems. And by 2020 we expect to have more than 500 research teams working from Antarctica to the Artic funded by Horizon 2020.

Thirdly, this new partnership will also see the development of joint data centres where scientists can share research outcomes. This will create a more open approach to science, not only in the Atlantic, but hopefully for other ocean-related science throughout the world. There are various ongoing initiative with which we can and should collaborate. In fact, one of the most exciting new projects in this area was recently launched by and in Portugal, in the Azorean islands - the Atlantic international research (air) center, an initiative of the Portuguese government, led by minister Heitor. Both South Africa and Brazil will also contribute research vessels which are integral for the day to day research being conducted. As these vessels will provide a unique opportunity to welcome scientists from other countries, they will foster the open science and international collaboration we are talking about today.

Finally, there is a strong educational aspect to the agreement we sign today. The Belem Statement will continue to develop human capital on all sides of the Atlantic for future research. As part of our cooperation, a number of "floating universities" will be established. These will train young scientists and give amazing opportunities to the next generation of marine researchers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today the signing of the Belem Statement marks a unique moment in international cooperation.

Today we are saying loud and clear that to achieve something that is bigger than ourselves we have to work together.

Our vast Atlantic connects us all. Only through strong partnerships we can harness its enormous potential.

A potential to transform our food systems, improve our health, modernise our energy systems, protect our wildlife habitats and boost our economies.

Just as Humboldt proposed two centuries ago, the ocean is connected to the air we breathe and the land we walk on. The same goes for countries. We may all look across the Atlantic from different perspectives, but we are all stewards of this magnificent Ocean.

We must all cooperate to protect our shared resource.

Just as Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the famous scientist, ocean-explorer and conservationist said, "The Sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat."

Thank you.

SPEECH/17/2008

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