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Opening the Next Steps Panel of Our Ocean Conference

Location: Washington, DC

Thanks. (Applause.) Am I supposed to go to there or here? Anyway, I'm here. (Laughter.)

Well, hello again, everybody, and thank you again. We're sort of coming to the end of this part of the road. We have a luncheon obviously with an important announcement, important participation by John Podesta, who many of you know was deeply involved, chief of staff for President Clinton and is now special senior advisor to President Obama on issues similar to the ones we're talking about here today.

But I particularly want to thank the President of Palau Tommy Remengesau and Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz of Chile, Foreign Minister Borge Brende of Norway, Foreign Minister Robert Dussey of Togo, and the managing director of the World Bank Sri Mulyani Indrawati. Each of you have been very important interlocutors, very committed to this effort. And while we have a representative group of foreign ministers who are here, I will tell you of significant broad-based interest from foreign ministers around the world, as I have talked to them. And I believe, going forward, we're going to have an increasingly valuable partnership growing among our international partners, which will be critical in terms of affecting the progress that we're looking for, all of us here.

Over the past day and a half, some of the world's very best and most knowledgeable scientists and most influential leaders in both the public and private sectors have been here telling us about inspiring efforts that are underway to address various challenges of our ocean, and importantly not just defining the challenges but laying out the solutions, the things we know we can do.

What's interesting about the challenges we face, I might add -- and is not just about the oceans -- but so many of the challenges that are confounding the world today actually have pretty obvious solutions that are staring us in the face. It's not as if we're sitting around scratching our heads saying, "How do we solve the problem?" It's really a question of, "How do we find the political will? How do we get people to move -- to sometimes move back very vested, powerful interests that like the status quo because change means reinvesting or changing the way you do business, even though in the long run it will save everybody a lot of money and a lot of grief?"

It's pretty obvious about where we are. The solution to climate change, which is a serious problem with respect to the oceans, as we have all seen, is very simple, actually. It's called energy policy. Energy policy is the solution to climate change. And astoundingly, we know we have anything from zero-emissions energy production to at least 50 percent of carbon, of CO2 production from coal or fossil fuels, unmitigated fossil fuel without carbon sequestration or without scrubbers and so forth. So we're looking at solutions. The irony of it all is that the energy market that is staring us in the face is a $6 trillion market with four to five billion users today, which will grow to nine billion users over the course of the next years. Just think about that. It's the mother of all markets.

And what we need are the triggers that excite the investment and excite the marketplace itself to move. It's happening in some places; we all see that -- some solar breaking through, more and more windmills. I was flying over France the other day going to the Normandy celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the invasion, and you could see more and more windmills. You see them in the North Sea. You see them in Scandinavia. I mean, they're growing. And you see them in Iowa. You see them in Minnesota. But not happening fast enough, not happening significantly enough. Solar thermal -- and we can produce three times the electricity needs of the entire United States of America from a 100 square-mile area in the four corners of southeastern United States. But we don't have a grid that will transmit all of that to one part of the country to the other.

So there's not -- there is nothing that we're looking at that doesn't have a solution -- acidification, nitrate overload, dead zones. We have to change the politics. And that's part of the mission that's got to come out of here.

So today, I want to talk just about a couple of -- very, very quickly, because each of us are going to sort of lay out some things we can do. But the summary of everything that we're going to hear today is that we have to change the political will and start to make the decisions that put the money into enforcement, into science, into all the things that can actually save the oceans.

So I want to leave here today, as I said yesterday, with more than ideas, with concrete next steps. And I know we're all going to have new commitments to talk about, so let me jump to that quickly.

First of all, President Obama this morning announced one way that we intend to better address the rampant, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and that is by issuing a presidential memorandum to ensure that all seafood sold in the United States is both sustainable and traceable, meaning customers will know exactly who caught it, where, and when. And I'm delighted to say that the person who helped put together this terrific forum, Cathy Novelli, our Under Secretary of State for these activities, is going to co-chair the task force that will be charged with making that goal a reality so that we follow through.

The United States is also committed to supporting sustainable fisheries through the international Port State Measures Agreement, which will help ensure that illegally harvested fish cannot enter into the global stream of commerce. And here in the U.S., Senators Murkowski and Whitehouse, the co-chairs of the Senate Ocean policy -- Ocean Caucus, played a key role in shepherding that agreement through Congress. And you're going to be hearing them speak shortly after this panel wraps up, and they'll tell us a little more about this effort.

One thing I forgot to kind of pull together as I was talking about the $6 trillion market, just to underscore the possibilities of a $6 trillion market with four to five billion users has to be compared to the 1990s, certainly in America, where we saw this extraordinary economic growth take place. And what fueled that growth was the computer data transmission, personal computer and so forth technology market really.

My friends, compare. The market that created growth in every single quintile of American income earner in the 1990s -- every quintile, from the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers to the top 20 percent -- everybody saw their income go up. America got richer. We created more wealth in the 1990s than we created in the entire period of the Morgans, Pierponts, Fricks, Rockefellers, and so forth in the 1920s when we had no income tax. And guess what? The market that created that greater wealth was a $1 trillion market compared to 6, and one billion users compared to four to five.

So that's the differential. The world is waiting for people to be put to work. We have extreme poverty; we have terrorism that comes out of it. We have any number of problems that could be cured by energy policy that makes sense, and at the same time we would solve this problem.

We also know that in reaching this political consensus public-private partnerships are going to be absolutely critical to supporting a healthy ocean. Because more often than not, it will take a public and private initiative together to be able to create the sort of framework within which we're able to manage these choices.

As we heard yesterday, the State Department and /tone™, which is a communications company, have together developed a new mobile platform device called mFish. And we just saw it earlier today. I went through it with Leonardo DiCaprio, looking at the various displays that show the currents and show ways in which we can be helpful.

But this is going to help fishermen get the data on local fish markets -- pricing, supply numbers, and so forth. And they can also get weather forecasts and other information that helps to make their fishing efforts much more efficient and their catches more lucrative. And as a result, it will help put something up to 15 percent of their costs back in their pocket, so the incomes of fishermen will be able to go up. They'll report their information on their catches through mFish, and that will help us do a much better job of monitoring and managing fisheries.

Yesterday I underscored the importance of research and science and getting the ocean policy right. That is especially true with respect to acidification. We need to know exactly where something is happening, what is happening, how fast it's happening before we can actually make a decision about how to slow it down or what to do.

Now obviously more research is going to require more support. That's why yesterday I announced $640,000 in a grant from the U.S. Government to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Coordination Center on Acidification in Monaco. That money is part of nearly 2 million that the U.S. Department of State and Energy together will be contributing in order to support the IAEA's ocean and marine projects.

On top of that, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, will be contributing more than $9 million over the next three years to the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, so it can better monitor acidification around the world. And these investments will directly improve our understanding of the ocean, which in turn will improve our ability to be able to protect it.

Now that is a return on investment, and I can certainly imagine that all of you would support that kind of basic return on investment. I hope others around the world will contribute in a similar manner. Now that's just some of what we're planning to do here in the United States. But as President Obama made clear this morning, we're really just getting started. I've been in this job now for a little over a year. It took us a period of time to plan this, but I hope we build some momentum out of here, and we will have more to announce, I promise you, in the near future. And I know that others on the stage here have more to contribute, and so I will turn over to them.

Thank you, Cathy. (Applause.)

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