Ahead of  the European Parliament elections in June 2024, Brussels-based marine NGOs produced the “Ocean of Change: a joint Manifesto for the 2024 European Elections”. Its aim is to inspire EU political parties and boost their ambition in the face of the triple climate, biodiversity and pollution crises. 

Europe’s seas are among the most overexploited in the world and marine nature is in a poor state. The window of opportunity to avoid major and likely irreversible damage, and combat the inevitable effects of climate change is closing very quickly: the International Panel on Climate Change estimates that global emissions will need to peak by mid-decade and then quickly decline if we are to restrict global heating to 1.5ºC. Stopping human-induced climate change and restoring resilient and rich ecosystems, including in the Ocean, are our most urgent tasks if we are to save our civilisation. 

In recent years, the EU embarked on the “European Green Deal” to turn our economy away from ecological degradation and, instead, build a resilient and equitable society that can live in harmony with the natural world. However, the “Blue” is still missing from the “Green” Deal. To that end, we call on the EU to bring a Green Deal to the Ocean by delivering the following actions:

Action 1 – Adopt an overarching and ambitious EU Ocean Deal to integrate existing and potential new legislation related to the marine environment and assure coherence between different sectoral policies, while making them fit for preserving and protecting our Ocean, for the benefit of people and planet alike. To do so, it should first of all acknowledge that the protection, preservation and management of the Ocean is a common responsibility and secondly set ambitious targets to achieve the Good Environmental Status of EU seas. 

Action 2 – Support the delivery of ambitious policy objectives for the Ocean with an EU Ocean Fund: This fund should set measures for the long-term restoration and conservation of the marine environment, while enabling just transition of ocean-related economic sectors towards more sustainable, fair, decarbonised and low-impact activities for the benefit of all. In addition, harmful subsidies should be urgently eliminated. 

Action 3 – Put the Ocean at the heart of the EU decision making process: In order to overcome the current siloed approach to policy making, we call on the EU to establish an Ocean Committee in the European Parliament that will be responsible for the Ocean Deal and the Ocean Fund. Furthermore, joint Council meetings of Environment, Energy, Fisheries and Transport ministers have to take place within each Council Presidency to make and monitor progress on the implementation of the Ocean Deal. 

Adopting an overarching and ambitious EU Ocean Deal, supporting the delivery of ambitious policy objectives with the creation of an EU Ocean Fund, and putting the Ocean at the heart of the EU decision making process are critical steps towards a healthy and resilient Ocean for the benefit of people and planet alike.