SIWI Webinar: The Well-being of the Oceans

Date: May 27, 2020


On 27 May 2020, the Stockholm Climate Security Hub contributed to a webinar entitled ‘The Well-being of the Oceans’ organized by the Swedish Water House at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). The Source-to-Sea approach discussed in depth during the webinar, emphasizes the fact that the well-being of the oceans is deeply connected to the sources.

The Swedish Ambassador for Oceans, Helen Ågren, opened the seminar outlining Sweden’s global agenda on oceans. The foundation of Sweden’s engagements is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 ‘Life under Water’ relating to oceans and marine resources. In addition, the Ambassador shared updates on international agreements that Sweden has endorsed with the aim to protect and sustainably use marine resources. Reducing pollution was also elevated as an important point, with the Ambassador noting that 80 per cent of the pollution in oceans is derived from land-based sources. Ambassador Ågren further highlighted poverty reduction as an important goal in the work that the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is collaborating on together with Sida. She also pointed out Sweden’s support to the work within the UN system on oceans where research, education and capacity building also are important cornerstones.

Birgitta Liss-Lymer, Director of Water Resources at SIWI, presented the approach of the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea and some of the work it is spearheading. The interface between freshwater and oceans are often overlooked, yet these linkages are essential to understand for both society and the environment. Pollutants transported with rivers is a major concern, but reduced water flow and sediment transport in the rivers also have serious implications for coastal areas, e.g. lowering and erosion of delta areas. The Source-to-Sea Platform, focusing on the linkages, helps to bridge this interface in the often divided management sectors.

Karina Barquet, Researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), representing the Stockholm Climate Security Hub, further discussed the cross-sectorial linkages in the source-to-sea approach through two projects. The first project, BONUS RETURN, highlighted the innovation potential in the Baltic Sea where 97 per cent of the sea is eutrophic, primarily due to agriculture and wastewater. Solutions need to address both sectors by closing the nutrient loop from a linear system of production and consumption towards circular ones. Circular solutions may turn water-polluting sectors into resource-generating ones. To this end, technology is not a limitation, but mindsets, policy incoherence, market mechanisms, and business models are. The second project, HydroHazards, highlighted the importance to address impacts from the ocean and climate on land. Sea level rise and other drivers will have an increasingly negative impact on critical infrastructures, communities, and livelihoods. As a result, the unknowns from cascading and compounding effects present great challenges in the assessment of risks, vulnerability, and security implications.

Finally, Jakob Granit, Executive Director of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management presented how Sweden is working with freshwater and ocean with a source to sea connection. Several strategies, from global to EU, to national scales, are guiding the work of the Agency. He emphasized the importance of integrating the work between sectors—an approach that is influencing the work within the Agency as well as its work with external actors. Knowledge about the natural resources are seldom an issue but finding the most effective governance systems may be.

The webinar shed light on the state of freshwater resources and the oceans and how natural resources are currently managed nationally and internationally. The recent IPCC report highlighting the linkages between cryosphere and oceans has contributed to additional focus on trans-continental impacts of global warming. The full impacts on environment, societies, and infrastructure that sea-level rise and related climate-driven hazards will drive is yet to be seen. Further, the human security implications linked to this are likely to be substantial and as such demand increased attention in order to better prepare the society for what is yet to come.

A video recording of the webinar (in Swedish) and presentations by the speakers are available here.