IAEA Director General in Portugal: Nuclear Cooperation and Saving Ocean

Portugal is a country that understands the importance of the ocean and is a constructive voice for multilateralism, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in Lisbon this week. Mr Grossi visited Portugal’s capital for three days to speak with the country’s leaders – including the President and Foreign Minister – and to take part in the 2022 UN Ocean Conference held in the city.

Meeting with the country’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Wednesday, Mr Grossi said Portugal was a valued IAEA partner and thanked the President for Portugal’s support to a wide range of IAEA activities, from the promotion of sustainable development in Lusophone countries and beyond, to nuclear non-proliferation.

In a meeting with João Cravinho, Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Grossi discussed the IAEA’s involvement in addressing ocean acidification and marine plastic pollution. He also thanked Portugal for its support to the Agency’s work on the safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear sites.

“Portugal strongly supports urgent access of IAEA to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear installations, and to Iranian nuclear facilities,” Mr Cravinho said. The Minister described both situations as “currently very worrying.”

Oceans are at the forefront of climate change: they absorb 30 per cent of CO2 emissions, and the impact that’s having on oceans’ health is evident. We must act to save our oceans, and nuclear can help.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. (Photo: D. Candano/IAEA)

In Lisbon, Mr Grossi also met with João Lourenço, the President of Angola, to discuss cooperation in improving access to cancer care. He welcomed the President’s plans to build a new oncology hospital and offered support through the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative.

The Director General spoke with other ministers, including Elvira Fortunato, Portugal’s Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, with whom he discussed improving the gender balance in science and technology subjects, and the IAEA’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme; Mangaliso Ndlovu, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry; and John Silk, Marshall Islands’ Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce.

Addressing ocean challenges at the UN conference

Mr Grossi joined international experts, ministers, scientists and global leaders at the UN Ocean Conference, and on Wednesday took part in the Conference’s interactive dialogue on minimizing and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming.

“Oceans are at the forefront of climate change: they absorb 30 per cent of CO2 emissions, and the impact that’s having on oceans’ health is evident,” Mr Grossi said. “We must act to save our oceans, and nuclear can help.” He explained how the IAEA’s laboratories in Monaco continue to be at the centre of global marine environment research, using nuclear techniques to study ocean acidification and, through the IAEA’s NUTEC Plastics initiative, helping countries address marine plastic pollution.

“We cannot solve the climate issue without solving the ocean issue, and we cannot solve the ocean issue without solving the climate issue,” said John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and a co-chair of the dialogue. “This includes tackling issues like ocean acidification, warming and deoxygenation.” Mr Kerry said that the world needs to move away from coal and gas to cleaner energy sources on a wider, more global scale.

Fellow co-chair Matthew Samuda, Jamaica’s Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, said that in addressing ocean challenges there is a cooperation gap: “Greater partnerships are needed not just between countries but also other stakeholder groups. We must bring everyone on board. The UN system plays an indispensable role in the collection and dissemination of data,” he said.

Stephen Widdicombe, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Science at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) moderated the dialogue. He thanked the IAEA for its efforts in ocean acidification, particularly the Agency’s support to the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), which Mr Widdicombe co-chairs. GOA-ON is an integrated, international research effort closely linked to, and supported by, the IAEA’s Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC) – a platform from which the IAEA organizes training courses; provides access to data and resources to advance ocean acidification research; promotes the development of data portals, standardized methodology and best practices, and raises awareness on the role nuclear and isotopic techniques can play in assessing ocean acidification impacts.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was a panelist at the UN Ocean Conference’s interactive dialogue on ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming. (Photo: D. Candano/IAEA)

On Tuesday, the IAEA also held a side event at the Conference on marine plastic pollution and how international cooperation and partnerships across science and technology can build capacities and lead to systems innovation. Mr Grossi took part in the event, calling for a more enhanced global approach against plastic pollution that includes joint action and decision-making based on the latest and most innovative science available.

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