As Prepared for Delivery
Gracias, Marce! Good afternoon, buenas tardes, ocean advocates!
I’m so pleased to be able to join you to hear the results of the first-of-its-kind poll of Latino voters regarding ocean-climate solutions and the protection of the marine environment. I can’t wait to hear the results.
Hearty congratulations to Azul for initiating this poll and for sharing it widely.
I first met Azul’s founder, Marce, a few years ago, and was instantly a fan of Azul’s unique mission and powerful vision. “Gente-powered and-led.” I loved the organic focus of connecting family and community to ocean conservation. And the emphasis on solutions is near and dear to my heart, as is the willingness to partner where useful.
And now in my current role here at the WH OSTP, where we value evidence and data as the basis for knowledge and action, I’m particularly excited to learn what the poll has uncovered.
Hearing what people care about is powerful. We are all ears.
And, like you, we seek partnerships and action to convert data and evidence into impact. Impact for all people.
I know from personal experiences that people from many different places and backgrounds care deeply about pressing environmental challenges – clean air, clean water, abundant wildlife, climate solutions, and natural spaces for all. They care about family, especially children. These common values provide the right starting point for action.
Indeed, action – informed by values and evidence – is needed now more than ever.
And here in the White House, following the President’s lead, we are laser-focused on action. Let me highlight a few of the actions we’ve taken and are working on:
Very early on, President Biden issued clear and measurable targets to combat the climate crisis, our nature deficit, and racial injustice.
President Biden set the Nation’s first-ever conservation goal to conserve at least 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. The resulting America the Beautiful Initiative emphasizes the importance of locally-led conservation efforts, informed by evidence and knowledge. It also frames conservation action as intimately connected with climate and equity goals.
Last November, the United States announced that President Biden would join the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. In partnership with 16 other countries, we are committed to sustainable management of 100% of our exclusive economic zones through a Sustainable Ocean Plan within 5 years of joining.
We and the other Ocean Panel countries seek a triple bottom-line: to protect the ocean effectively, produce from it sustainably, and prosper from it equitably.
This balance of conservation, sustainable use, and equity makes for a powerful combination. But the emphasis is also on working with local communities and diverse partners.
On the climate front, the President has set ambitious goals and is directing a forceful all-of-government approach to tackling the climate crisis.
While this work is fundamentally grounded in science, it is basically about people— about community, about good-paying jobs, about all of you.
Recognizing that good policy requires engagement with other governments, with stakeholders, with voters, and with all of our Nation, the President has set the bar high: we will combat the climate crisis in a just way, that centers equity in all that we do.
Pivoting to ocean policy more specifically, last month the White House released an environmental justice statement to guide activities and investments in ocean science and technology.
And in the next few weeks, we will be releasing our priority areas for intensive exploration and characterization of the ocean, based on geographic priorities and the three thematic priorities of climate, biodiversity, and environmental justice.
We are also working on guidance that we will issue to Federal agencies and departments about elevating Indigenous Knowledge into our science and decision-making across the government.
When we think about conservation, we think evidence, knowledge, climate, and equity – but also access.
Last week, the President launched a Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation, that will work to create more safe, affordable, and equitable opportunities to explore our nation’s public lands and waters.
Yes, we have been busy. And more is on the way.
We seek tangible benefits for people by listening to and working with them.
We are hearing and seeing how rapidly the ocean and coasts are changing. And I suspect that will be reflected in Azul’s polling results.
We see, for example, the extent to which climate change is affecting shorelines, coastal and oceanic ecosystems and the myriad ways we depend up on the ocean: maritime shipping, fisheries, seafood, recreation, tourism, cultural heritage – all are affected by climate change. There is no doubt that ocean is a victim of climate change.
But science is also telling us the ocean is also a powerful source of solutions to climate change. We are also flipping the script from victim to solution.
For example, a study commissioned by the Ocean Panel concludes that the ocean could provide up to 20% of the carbon emission reductions needed to achieve the 1.5° Paris Agreement target by 2050.
We can harness clean energy from the ocean’s wind and its waves.
We can reduce the carbon footprint of shipping.
We can create fully and highly protected Marine Protected Areas that will enhance ocean health and contribute to climate solutions.
Last month, the White House’s Ocean Policy Committee committed to developing the first ever Ocean Climate Action Plan in partnership with agencies across the federal government, and with input from the public.
We believe that together, we can do this.
In fact, many are waking up to the importance of a health ocean to a vibrant, just future.
Part of our collective challenge is to take this knowledge, your polling information, and create the new stories about the ocean.
Azul’s Founder and Executive Director, Marce knows the power of story for she says she used to sell fish, and now she saves them.
So, too, do we need new stories, new narratives about the ocean.
For most of human history, the ocean was seen as so vast, so bountiful that it was inconceivable that humans could have any impact on it. In other words, the narrative was that the ocean was too big to fail.
Anyone who has been paying attention over the last few decades knows that that old narrative was false.
Unfortunately, a new narrative has taken hold. It is clear there are many huge problems that affect the ocean – from depleted fisheries to climate change and ocean acidification, from bleached coral reefs to profuse plastic pollution. The intractable nature of these problems and their scale have led some to a new narrative that the ocean is now too big to fix.
I believe that narrative is false. From Azul’s work to the UN Ocean Conference, we’re seeing the emergence of a new narrative. One that understands that the ocean is at the center of our future. One that feels the deep connection that people have to the ocean. One that looks at the evidence that the ocean is key to tackling climate change, food security and equity.
In short, we are seeing the emergence of a new narrative, that the ocean is too central to our future, it is too big to ignore.
Let me be clear: We have learned that the ocean is not too big to fail, nor is it too big to fix. We are just beginning to appreciate that the ocean is so central to our future, that it is too big to ignore.
I commend Azul for embracing this narrative, and leading this important polling to understand the relevant perceptions of the Latino community in the U.S. I am eager to hear the results!
Thank you, muchas gracias, to Azul and the Latino community for being engaged and providing leadership on these critical issues at this pivotal time.