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Blue Belt Symposium 2024: Foreign Secretary’s speech

This is the biggest Blue Belt in the world. On the planet. The biggest one that has ever been created. Between us, we’ve done something together that is absolutely world-beating and world-leading. And bigger than anybody. It is a huge pleasure to be with you on this day where we are celebrating yet another expansion of the Blue Belt. The fourth thing I wanted to say is this is such a good example of partnership. I want to thank everyone that has made this possible. All the organisations that have helped. But above all, the Overseas Territories that have helped bring this together, that have helped create this Blue Belt, and create this massive bonus for the environment, bonus for oceans and legacy for our children and grandchildren. I’m a bit of country boy, I represented a rural seat in Oxfordshire for many years, and the idea of fallowing, leaving a field fallowed, to let the land get back some of the minerals, some of the goodness, some of things you need in order to have productive soil. Something we’ve done for ages, forever. This isn’t the answer to all of them, but it is part of the answer. And it is such a brilliant answer. And, we know the oceans are responsible for 50% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and so it is undoubtably the right thing to do. But there is no doubt that on this agenda, we’ll be able to say that Britain created, with the OTs, the biggest, the best, the boldest in terms of marine conservation and in terms of Blue Belt, in terms of giving our oceans, our seas, a break. There are 5 obvious things to say about why I’m so enthusiastic about it. Thank you very much indeed. Fifth and final thing, is this issue of legacy. The third thing I love about it is that it is big and it is bold. We are not the biggest country in the world, we are the 6th largest economy in the world. Some of the Territories represented here – from Pitcairn to British Virgin Islands to Tristan da Cunha – are not the largest countries in the world either but what we have done is something amazing. There is no doubt that when the history books are written, about what we did to cut carbon in our atmosphere, what we did to make the green transition, what we did to move away from coal, there will be some good things we’ll be able to say and some things we’ll be less mad about. I’m feeling pumped up about the Overseas Territories having just come back from a trip to the Falklands Islands, a wonderful place. There aren’t many places where a politician like me can go for a walk about and you have such a wonderful time and everybody is lovely to you, I thought ‘this is great, I can even come and live here’. And applying that principle to our oceans is such a simple concept. As I say, it won’t solve all the problems but giving a large part of our oceans a rest, a break, is so easy to get a hold of as a concept. It something we are doing, which the rest of the world is applauding. The United Nations have set a target that 30% of our oceans should have this break by 2030 and the Overseas Territories of Britain are certainly doing our bit. In fact, more than our bit. Firstly, incomparably, it is the right thing to do. We all know the stress that our oceans are under. We all know problems of plastic, the problems of overfishing, the problems of deep-sea mining, the problems of over-extraction, we know all those problems. I know that sometimes the Overseas Territories can feel as though they are not as loved as they should be, they can sometimes feel that they don’t get all the attention they should get. I really want us to change that and I think we are changing. I think you’ve got an excellent minister in David Rutley, he is not here tonight he’s probably on one of the islands. He works so hard and has done so much to bring the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies together. My father used to say to me, “if you get involved in politics, always remember, it is never the wrong time to do the right thing”. Well, this is incomparably the right thing. And it is so good that we are all doing it together. Legacy for all of us. I’ve got 3 relatively young children. And they care about this issue on our planet, on our climate and what we are going to leave to our children, more than any other issue. And they are always quite rightly challenging me and others about what we are doing. I think that is something we can all be proud of. It is something to celebrate, it is something to think about. There are so many issues we discuss every day that we won’t even remember in ten, twenty years’ time. ‘Why did that minister resign, why was that scandal happening in parliament?’ Can’t remember any of them. But this we will remember, and we should remember it with pride. It is something I started as Prime Minister in 2014. I remember some very talented and committed environmental enthusiasts like Zac Goldsmith, Oliver Letwin, Richard Benyon coming and seeing me and telling me about this idea and getting really excited by the idea of what it could all mean. You have these sort of meetings and think, ‘will anything come out of it?’ And now when I look around and see what you have all achieved, it really is a great cause for celebration and so it is a real privilege to be with you and celebrate it tonight. Watch: How the UK is helping to protect the world’s oceans The second is, it is beautifully simple.

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