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A roadmap to Australia's Sustainable Ocean Plan: The Ocean Summit White Paper

The inaugural Ocean Business Leaders’ Summit (the Ocean Summit) brought together 257 leaders from business, finance, science, community, research, indigenous communities and government to generate a cross-sectoral, inclusive discussion and the sharing of knowledge and expertise on the multi-faceted importance of the ocean (fisheries, tourism, cultural connection, blue carbon, biodiversity, etc.), and particularly challenges and opportunities for Australia in this space. Australia is uniquely placed as home to 12 per cent of the world’s blue carbon ecosystems, the third largest area of mangroves globally and 50 per cent of the world’s seagrass species.

This White Paper, co-authored by Ocean Decade Australia, UNSW and EY Australia, is a synthesis of the discussions held at the 2023 Ocean Summit. The paper aims to inform the development of Australia's sustainable ocean plan to deliver a thriving ocean economy by 2050, with 100 per cent of national waters managed sustainably by 2025.

There has been a wealth of conferences and papers released in the last decade related to ocean action and future commitments, however they have not always led to immediate and impactful change. This White Paper goes beyond ‘making plans to make a plan’ to discuss tangible changes leaders can make right now, including the establishment of a National Ocean Minister and a dedicated independent Ocean Agency. Panellists at the White Paper launch also suggested the establishment of a Sovereign blue bond; a concept that is not so far away with the Australian government already developing a program for green bonds with the first bonds scheduled to be issued mid-2024 .

In the words of Ocean Decade Australia Chair and Co-founder, Jas Chambers, the summit and subsequent White Paper asks,

"What does success look like for Australia's ocean future?
How would we measure that success?
And, what are the shifts in behaviour and action that could drive it?’"

Until recently, businesses and government have typically focused their energy on climate, with little to no mention or awareness of the ocean-climate nexus. As a result, they are missing something fundamental. The White Paper highlights the need for data on oceans to be extensive, accessible, usable and connected.

"I’m really struggling with the plans to make a plan… what I was really excited about coming out of the Summit…and the White Paper, is that we have an expression of radical change. We have come together as a group and said that’s enough."
- Prof. Will Glamore, UNSW Professor and Chief Scientist & Co-founder, Restore Blue & Aquo Pty Ltd.

Sustainable Development Reform Hub directors, Ben Milligan and Eliza Northrop are co-authors to the White Paper.

Author: Bella Charlesworth, Communications Officer, Sustainable Development Reform Hub.

Watch the Ocean Summit White Paper Launch