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Global voices call for urgent change to our blue planet

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The Ocean Race Summit Europe © Rafa Galán / The Ocean Race
The Ocean Race Summit Europe © Rafa Galán / The Ocean Race

The Ocean Race Summit Europe today shone a spotlight on ocean ‘rights’, the Green Deal through a blue lens, the climate crisis, and inspiring examples of nature-based solutions in Europe, as part of a packed agenda that included the President of the European Commission, the former President of the Republic of Palau, sailors and youth leaders.


Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (EC), spoke about the strong commitments that the EC is taking to protect and restore the seas, announcing that the Commission will “update its international ocean agenda next year” and “focus its diplomatic energy on protecting the oceans”.

The President noted the importance of standing up for ocean rights: “The Ocean Race has now been sailing the waves for almost fifty years. The ocean is your arena. And every day you feel its unique strength and power. But you also sense and see its growing fragility. You have seen it change and suffer. You are helping it to heal… It (the ocean) has no voice in our public debate. I salute you for speaking up for it!”

Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chairman of the European Round Table for Industry, also spoke of the importance of giving nature rights. “We have a total commitment to living in harmony with nature. To give the ocean legal rights is absolutely key. Nobody owns the ocean, it's everybody's, but that means it doesn't have any rights.”

The Summit series has been developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, Premier Partner of The Ocean Race and Founding Partner of the Racing with Purpose sustainability programme. Our current series of 12 Summits, which take place between 2019 and 2023, is helping to drive new and improved policies around the major issues affecting the ocean.

Richard Brisius, Race Chairman of The Ocean Race, speaking live from The Ocean Race headquarters in Alicante, Spain, opened the Summit by explaining the ambition behind the event: “Our Purpose is to unite people to achieve the extraordinary, and to contribute to a healthier Ocean and Planet. The ocean still receives far too little attention from world leaders. We want to help accelerate the change that is desperately needed. We want the summits to help drive new and improved policies for the ocean: effective governance, functioning protection, and to mitigate climate change.”

Recognition of the important role that the ocean plays in planetary health and re-examining our relationship with the marine world were prominent themes in the event. The exploration of ocean ‘rights’ was high on the agenda, with some of the world’s leading experts in the field explaining why it could help to provide a thriving, sustainable future for all life on Earth.

Mumta Ito, Founder of Nature’s Rights said: “The rights of nature are our most fundamental right, but it’s missing from the legal system. A common misconception is its nature against humans.” Valerie Cabanes from End Ecocide on Earth wants ecocide to be a crime around the world, explaining: “We need to recognise nature’s rights to exist, to evolve, to regenerate, not to be polluted.”

Mar Menor, in Murcia, Spain - Europe’s largest salt lagoon - was highlighted as an example of why rights are needed as, despite being protected, the water continues to be polluted. Teresa Vicente Giménez, a Professor of philosophy of law at Murcia University, and an advocate for the rights of nature, is campaigning for Mar Menor to have the same right as the commercial entities and corporations that pollute it. She said: “We need to recognize the ecological truth, that nature does not belong to human beings, but that human beings are one more species that belongs to nature.”

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