I accepted this volontary position without hesitation: As of this month, I am an ambassador for the German Committee of the UN Decade of the Oceans (2021-2030) for three years. The aim of the ambassadors is to create understanding and publicity for the goals of the Decade and to anchor marine conservation and research more firmly in the public consciousness. The Decade is also correctly called the “UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)”.
LIFELONG CONNECTION TO THE SEA
I have loved the sea since I was a child, because coming from the Ruhr region, the sea has always improved my health. And so my commitment and my professional life have always taken me there. Our first Greenpeace actions and campaigns took us to the North Sea and the world’s oceans. With the ships Sirius, Rainbow Warrior I and II, we went into confrontation with whalers and dumping tankers of dilute acid and nuclear waste. As Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister, I also campaigned for international agreements to save the Wadden Sea and against the discharge of toxic substances into the sea.
And after my time as a minister and member of the German Bundestag, I helped to make cruise companies more sustainable and climate-friendly. That was controversial. For me, it was more about continuity. The aim was still to protect the environment – for its own sake and for the sake of people’s health. There has also been a lot of movement. The first cruise ships used shore power and switched to LNG. Batteries and fuel cells were tested. Meanwhile LNG and other clean fuels have become more widespread.
WE CANNOT DO WITHOUT THE SERVICES OF THE OCEANS
The UN Ocean Decade is about a sustainable future for the oceans. First and foremost, the world’s oceans should remain or become clean. Pollutants from the human world, such as plastic and CO2 from fossil sources, are polluting rivers and oceans. They endanger their ecosystems and thus also threaten the health of humans themselves, who repeatedly forget how dependent they are on a functioning natural environment. The aim of the Decade is to find out how people can use the oceans sustainably. In other words, in such a way that the services provided by water landscapes, such as climate regulation, food security and recreation, can continuously be provided by the oceans.
A total of seven goals have been set by international agreement. A great deal of research is to be carried out in order to keep the oceans resilient and productive, to get to know and appreciate them better and to raise awareness of the value of the oceans. This applies equally from a scientific and a cultural perspective. The latter is very important to me: nature inspires and fascinates, nature has produced mechanisms that humans can only begin to imitate to this day. This creativity is another important reason to protect it.
EIGHT NEW AMBASSADORS FOR THE UN DECADE OF THE OCEANS
In Germany, the UN Ocean Decade is supported by the national Ocean Decade Committee (ODK). It aims to establish itself in broad sections of society and its committees are staffed accordingly. At the beginning of this year, the first cohort of the committee will now be replaced – and eight new ambassadors have also been found.
With me, professional sailor Boris Herrmann, marine biologist and author Julia Schnetzer, journalist Lars Abromeit, polar explorer and author Arved Fuchs, lawyer Anna von Rebay, extreme sportsman André Wiersig and Björn Both, frontman of the band “Santiago” and sailor, are taking up their voluntary work as ambassadors. I am looking forward to working with them.