The seventh Our Ocean Conference (OOC) took place in Palau on 13-14 April 2022, with EPA Minister Tzi-Chin Chang attending as an envoy assigned by President Tsai and giving a speech in the session “Tackling Marine Pollution.” It was the first time Taiwan attended the event with official government representation, a major breakthrough and elevation in Taiwan’s status in the international community. For the Conference’s six Action Areas, Taiwan has made 14 commitments, all of which were officially documented.
Our Ocean Conference (OOC)
Founded in 2014 by John Kerry, who is the current U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, the first Our Ocean Conference (OOC) was held in Washington, DC. Hosts in following years have included Chile, the EU, Indonesia, Norway, and others. Every OOC has seen the attendance of several heads of state and vice leaders, as well as representatives of government authorities in charge of environment, sustainability, or marine conservation.
The 7th OOC, titled Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity, focus on six areas of Action, including “Advancing Marine Protected Areas for Communities, Ecosystems, and Climate” “Tackling Marine Pollution” “Confronting the Ocean-Climate Crisis or Towards an Ocean Solution for Climate Change” “Creating Sustainable Blue Economies” “Advancing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries and Aquaculture” and “Achieving a Safe, Just and Secure Ocean”.
The Republic of Palau and the United States opened the 7th OOC on April 13, 2022, marking the first time this event held in a small island developing state (SIDS).
Joint Taiwan-Palau efforts lead to EPA Minister’s attendance at the OOC, the first by a government representative from Taiwan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) pointed out that due to the Republic of Palau’s highly valued close diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Palau President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. had particularly invited President Tsai Ing-wen to visit his country and attend the seventh OOC, a major event that Palau has always attended.
In response to President Whipps’ invitation, President Tsai appointed EPA Minister Tzi-Chin Chang to visit Palau and attend the event as an official representative of Taiwan. He was to share on the global stage Taiwan’s contributions to the marine environment and sustainable development as a responsible member of the Pacific region.
EPA Minister Tzi-Chin Chang (second from right) delivered a letter of credence to Palau President Whipps (second from left) and attended the OOC as a Special Presidential Envoy. (Source: MOFA)
President Whipps met with the Taiwan delegation led by Minister Chang, and stated that as Pacific island states, both Taiwan and Palau have always been highly devoted to marine preservation and sustainable development, and together they work on creating a bright future for the entire Pacific region. He especially stressed the close diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Palau, hoping to continuously strengthen such a friendship.
President Whipps openly thanks Taiwan’s assistance in organizing the OOC
Taiwanese delegates as well as representatives from over 80 countries and NGOs attended the welcome banquet jointly hosted by Palau and the U.S. In his welcome speech, President Whipps particularly thanked Taiwan for helping to organize this year’s OOC and for contributing to a better future for the Pacific region.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council (OAC) and International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) together held the “Toward Zero Emission and Zero Waste Exhibition.” In this exhibition, Taiwan presented its various ocean-related achievements, including “Establishing Climate Resilience,” “Marine Security,” “Marine Conservation,” and “Marine Science and Industrial Innovation”.
Minister Chang speaks at the OOC on Tackling Marine Pollution
In the session “Tackling Marine Pollution,” Minister Chang delivered a speech on relevant issues, which was a major breakthrough in the elevation of Taiwan’s participation in international marine activities. His presence at this event raised Taiwan’s status and image in global marine conservation efforts.
Minister Chang first spoke about the severity of marine pollution as a global problem before sharing Taiwan’s achievements in tackling the issue. He mentioned that in 2020, the EPA and other agencies launched a project called “Saluting the Ocean,” committing a budget of more than US$220 million between 2020 and 2023. The project focuses on cleaning up coastal waste, reducing waste from the fishery industry through controls on fishing nets and gear, and intercepting garbage from rivers and other terrestrial sources while also implementing at-source waste reduction. Practices include less use of plastics and active facilitation of resource recycling, such as recycling waste plastic bottles and reutilizing materials to make clothing. By sharing Taiwan’s experience, Minister Chang encouraged every country to promote source reduction, a circular economy, environmental education and civic participation.
OOC group photo with Minister Chang (first row, second from right) and delegates from various nations.(Source: MOFA)
Fourteen commitments made by Taiwan’s ocean-related authorities officially documented
To demonstrate to the world Taiwan’s determination and contributions to protecting the ocean through practical actions, the OAC has coordinated with all the agencies involved in ocean-related affairs. Together they proposed 14 commitments with a total budget of US$383.81 million for the OOC’s six Action Areas, all of which have been officially documented by the OOC.
The commitments of the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) are as follows:
I. Area of action: Maritime Security
- Taiwan announces its commitment to implementing the Intelligent Navigation Safety Service and Development Plan.
- With international partners Taiwan has committed to continuously cracking down on maritime cross-border criminal activities.
- Taiwan declares its commitment to fulfill the universal value of humanitarian aid and to strengthen its capacity regarding life-saving and rescue at sea.
II. Area of action: Sustainable Blue Economy
- Taiwan has committed US$300,000 to complete a single-page web application for coastal recreational activities.
- Taiwan has pledged to pass the Marine Industry Development Act and enact the Marine Economy and Industry Development Plan.
- Taiwan announces its commitment to continuously optimize facilities and service efficiency of commercial ports to create a favorable operating environment for the shipping industry.
III. Area of action: Sustainable Fisheries
- Taiwan has committed to implementing a recreational fishing-friendly plan.
- Taiwan has committed to adopting a program to reinforce the management of Taiwan’s distant water fishing fleet and combat IUU fishing.
IV. Area of action: Marine Protected Areas
- Taiwan has committed to the legislation of the Marine Conservation Act.
- Taiwan has committed to promoting the Project for Marine Eco-Environment Protection in Taiwan.
V. Area of action: Marine Pollution
- Taiwan has committed to promoting the gillnet marking and management program.
- Taiwan has committed to implementing Saluting the Ocean Policy.
VI. Area of action: Climate Change
- Taiwan announces its commitment to developing the Atmosphere-Ocean Coupled Model.
- Taiwan has committed to promoting its Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan.
Diverse contributions to marine ecological sustainability from joint public-private efforts
The government has also actively facilitated the participation of Taiwan’s private sector in the OOC as part of the commitment to collaboration between the private and public sectors.
The private sector’s participation includes utilizing recycled materials made from marine waste, reducing use of virgin plastics, and sponsorships to provide the OOC’s official wear made from marine waste found in Palau. This was a clear example of the diverse contributions via successful collaboration between Taiwan’s public and private sectors in the preservation of international marine ecological sustainability.
Aiming to promote Taiwan’s cooperation and exchanges with Palau and other like-minded nations
Minister Chang was interviewed by two major Palauan media outlets, the Island Times and Tia Belau, with whom he shared Taiwan’s policies and achievements in marine waste disposal, environmental conservation and climate change. He expressed that Taiwan will keep facilitating cooperation and exchanges with Palau and other like-minded countries.
Meeting with USEPA Assistant Administrator Jane Nishida
The Taiwan-US Agreement on Environmental Technology Collaboration has laid a solid foundation for exchanges and cooperation between the Taiwan EPA and the USEPA for nearly 30 years. Collaboration has gradually expanded from initially being bilateral to multilateral today. The Taiwan EPA has been working with USEPA in building regional capacity on environmental education, mercury monitoring, e-waste management, and air quality under the framework of the International Environmental Partnership (IEP) program.
During the OOC in Palau, USEPA Assistant Administrator Jane Nishida visited Taiwan’s Toward Zero Emission and Zero Waste Future Exhibition and afterwards suggested both the U.S. and Taiwan could further collaborate on issues such as marine pollution prevention and control, climate change impacts and a circular economy.
USEPA Assistant Administrator Jane Nishida (third from the right) and Taiwan EPA Minister Chang (third from the left)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)