UN Urges Action On Global Blue Deal To Safeguard Oceans And Marine Life
The ocean can offer vast and unique opportunities for developing nations to build more resilient and innovative economies; however, climate change, overfishing, and pollution threaten the livelihoods of about three billion individuals who depend on it for both income and food.
That is, per the UN Trade and Development body UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review 2023. This report was published on Monday. It highlights the world’s $3–6 billion ocean economy and assesses how human activities and several global crises have impacted sectors such as seafood, fishing, shipping, and coastal tourism.
The report presented in Geneva at the third UN Trade Forum calls for a global trade and investment “Blue Deal” to use the ocean that is home to 80% of all life sustainably.
The ocean economy offers several opportunities. We meet to strike the optimum balance between benefitting from the ocean and safeguarding the resources, Pedro Manuel Moreno, UNCTAD’s Deputy Secretary-General, reported.
The report highlights two specifically promising sectors for sustainable development – plastics substitutes and seaweed farming.
The global seaweed market has tripled in two decades, increasing from $4.5 billion in 2000 to $16.5 billion by 2020.
Seaweed does not require fresh water or fertilizers to grow, UNCTAD points out. It can easily be farmed in many developing nations for food, cosmetics, and biofuels, providing an alternative to plastic. Around 11 million tons of plastics, per research, flow into the ocean each year.
Several other sustainable materials may be used for coming up with eco-friendly versions of food wrapping, straws, and other plastic items we consume every day, mentioned the UNCTAD.
Abundant materials include bamboo, banana plants, coconut husks, and agricultural wastes.
The world reportedly traded nearly $388 billion in plastics substitutes in 2020 — one-third the amount sold in plastics produced from fossil fuels.
The report further calls for businesses and governments to enhance funding for the research and development of developing sustainable sectors in the ocean economy.
It urges firms to invest in developing nations to advance their technologies, productive capacities, and skills so that both can capitalize on more sustainable marine developments.
Investing in emerging ocean sectors may help developing nations diversify their ocean exports. The global export value of ocean-based items like port equipment and seafood and services, including shipping and coastal tourism, was estimated at $1.3 trillion in 2020.
The COVID-19 crisis has reportedly revealed the potential and resilience of some sectors and the vulnerability of others.
Governments, the report suggests, must highlight the goal of boosting a more diverse and sustainable ocean economy in terms of crisis recovery strategies, climate mitigation, and additional adaptation strategies.
Protect stocks, biodiversity
An estimated $35 billion of government subsidies are dedicated to fishing activities worldwide.
A significant share — nearly $20 billion each year — may contribute to overfishing by enhancing the capacity of the fishing industry through, for instance, financial incentives or fuel subsidies to purchase bigger boats.
With 34% of global fish stocks below the biologically sustainable levels, the report urges nations to urgently ratify the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) agreement on fisheries subsidies, adopted on 17 June 2022.
The deal, a big step toward addressing harmful subsidies, prohibits support for unreported, illegal, and unregulated fishing, bans the support for fishing of overfished stocks, and also ends subsidies for fishing on unregulated high seas. It will enter into force when two-thirds of the WTO’s 164 members deposit the instruments of acceptance.
Similarly, the report calls for all governments to adopt and ratify the Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction deal of 4 March 2023.
Famous as the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty, this deal will create advanced tools for the equitable and fair sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources and establish internationally safeguarded zones in the ocean.
Four sustainable solutions
It is estimated that an investment of about $2.8 trillion today in four sustainable ocean solutions – restoration and conservation of mangroves, sustainable ocean-based food and offshore wind production, and decarbonization of international shipping – would result in the net benefits of about $15.5 trillion by 2050.
In the absence of a global Blue Deal, the benefits as well as the targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, on life underwater, will be significantly harder to satisfy.
Moreno urged that now is the ideal time to set a new course by investing further in creating a more sustainable ocean economy.
References: UNCTAD, United Nations