Making sure the Blue Economy is Green
Oceans cover three-quarters of the globe, and a staggering 80% of all life on Earth is found hidden beneath their waves. They also represent an enormous economic opportunity, which is why the “Ocean Economy” is driven by a combination of growing ocean-based industries, jobs and rising incomes as well as concerns about growing pressures on dwindling marine resources and response to climate change. It also holds considerable potential for pioneering technological innovations that could provide solutions for balancing the benefits of marine-based activities with a complex variety of risks that need to be carefully managed. The ocean economy is fast-growing and calculations on the basis of the OECD’s Ocean Economy Database estimate its output in base year 2010 is approximately 2.5% of the world gross value GVA) and that its growth will outpace that of the global economy in the next 15 years. Today the ocean economy already provides livelihoods of more than 10% of the world’s population and it is worth over USD 1.5 trillion, and it is estimated to double by 2030.
While traditional maritime industries such shipping, ports, offshore oil and gas, capture fisheries, maritime and coastal tourism etc. continue to innovate, the emerging ocean industries are attracting most of the attention these days. These industries include offshore wind, tidal and wave energy, seabed mining, marine aquaculture and biotechnology. However, the predicted growth of the ocean economy must not come at the expense of marine ecosystems and biodiversity for the next generation. As such, a dramatic shift is necessary in how we develop the ocean’s potentials so as not to compromise the marine resource base on which they rely. A healthy ocean will have more than just economic benefits. It will improve our health and wellbeing, and enhance the resilience of our planet to support our long-term future.
An industrial transition is reshaping and diversifying maritime sectors. The long-term potential for innovation, employment creation, and economic growth offered by new and expansion of existing sectors are impressive. For example, offshore wind operations is projected to produce 175 gigawatts of power by 2035 and the extraordinary growth in aquaculture means that no other agri-food sector has grown as fast in the past two decades. Today, aquaculture makes a major contribution to human nutrition by providing animal protein consumed in countries like China and Indonesia.
Growing attention to the need to protect the world’s oceans and seas in the recent years has prompted discussions in numerous multi-stakeholder coalitions that address sustainability of the ocean economy. Such was the recent UN Ocean Conference addressing the Sustainable Development Goal 14, directly targeting the need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. With this in mind, the OECD’s 2017 Green Growth and Sustainable Development (GGSD) Forum on 21-22 November in Paris and will focus on Greening the Ocean Economy. Over the years, the Forum has proven to be a unique space for collaboration, discussion and identification of knowledge gaps on interconnected policy areas that matter to people, our planet and our economies. This year’s discussions will focus on how we can nationally and internationally examine the possible ways to improve ocean governance and solutions to counter the many intended and unintended pressures our oceans and seas face today.
The OECD GGSD Forum is also an opportunity to bring challenges to the table and push the knowledge frontier. Experts from leading research institutions, government officials and business representatives will exchange experience and information on the latest state of play and identify knowledge gaps. This is expected to lead to recommendations for future work on how to maximise the promise of the ocean economy while ensuring sustainability. Bringing together experts from different disciplines, sectors and policy areas can help governments, businesses and citizens determine the best way to implement the green growth agenda, while simultaneously addressing the various economic, social and environmental implications of the ocean economy.
Most importantly, this year’s GGSD Forum is about exploring opportunities for actions that can make a significant contribution to greening the ocean economy. Maritime activities are unlikely to develop to their full potential without effective management of the risks and opportunities associated with them. Hence, multi-disciplinary dialogues and collaborations are needed to manage the ocean economy, addressing issues such as marine spatial planning, management of marine litter, employment, trade and investment implications, and innovations in science and technology. The GGSD Forum will aim to show that actions and solutions in these areas are not only desirable but feasible from economic and technological perspectives. It needs to start now, as it will build on other international and national efforts to conserve our oceans and seas.
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the GGKP or its Partners.