- Ocean-based climate solutions should be an essential part of the G20 COVID-19 recovery plans.
- The “blue economy” can create jobs, boost economic growth, mitigate the impacts of climate change and help meet the food needs of a growing global population.
- From sustainable fisheries to marine renewable energy, there are five crucial areas where the G20 would benefit from investing in the ocean.
The G20 is committed to rebuilding the global economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and tackling climate change by investing in sustainable development. Yet one of the most powerful tools available to achieve these goals is largely missing from national economic recovery plans: ocean-based climate solutions.
The ocean has enormous potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and mitigate some of the most severe climate impacts if we protect it and use its resources sustainably. This is often referred to as the “blue economy”.
For example, the world’s wetlands alone are estimated to provide $47 trillion in ecological services per year, services such as coastal flood defences, carbon sequestration and breeding grounds for commercial fish, and support at least 1 billion jobs. But climate change, habitat destruction and plastic pollution – to name just a few issues – threaten to undermine their ecological integrity and destroy a remarkably effective buffer against some of the most severe impacts of climate change.
A similar story is playing out on the ocean’s coral reefs and in our global fisheries. So-called “blue” foods (foods from the ocean and other aquatic sources) hold immense potential to help meet the dietary needs of a growing population in a nutritious, sustainable, equitable and affordable way. Achieving this requires a concerted effort by the global community to ensure that fisheries are sustainable.
The G20, which includes 45% of the world’s coastline and 21% of its exclusive economic zones, has a particular obligation to protect marine ecosystems and is well placed to deploy ocean-based climate solutions as the world continues its post-recovery recovery. -pandemic.
Create a blue economy
There are five critical areas where the G20 would benefit from investing in ocean-based climate action to create a blue economy:
1. Marine renewable energiessuch as offshore wind, floating solar panels and wave and tidal power, hold tremendous promise for boosting energy independence and helping countries meet their emission reduction commitments under the Paris on climate change.
2. We need to decarbonize global shipping. If this industrial sector were a country, it would be the eighth in the world in terms of carbon emissions. The good news is that emerging technologies can significantly reduce emissions from ships and port facilities. The international community must set new standards to ensure that best practices are implemented consistently around the world.
Our ocean covers 70% of the surface of the globe and represents 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. We can’t have a healthy future without a healthy ocean – but it’s more vulnerable than ever to climate change and pollution.
Tackling serious threats to our oceans means working with leaders in every sector, from business to government to academia.
The World Economic Forum, together with the World Resources Institute, brings together the Friends of Ocean Action, a coalition of leaders working together to protect the seas. From a program with the Indonesian government to reduce plastic waste in the sea to a global plan to hunt down illegal fishing, Friends are pushing for new solutions.
Climate change is an integral part of the threat to our oceans, with rising temperatures and acidification disrupting fragile ecosystems. The Forum runs a number of initiatives to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, including hosting the CEO Climate Alliance, who have reduced their companies’ emissions by 9%.
Is your organization interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Learn more here.
3. Wetlands and coastal ecosystems – such as salt marshes, sea grass beds, coral reefs and mangrove forests – need urgent protection in order to maintain their essential environmental services. These ecosystems are estimated to sequester up to five times the amount of carbon than terrestrial forests per unit area while protecting coastal populations from increasingly powerful storms and rising sea levels.
4. Invest in sustainable fishing and, in particular, aquaculture will create well-paying jobs and help promote food security and economic equity, especially in developing countries.
5. Sustainable and regenerative tourism can be an essential part of ensuring sustainable economic recovery for coastal nations in a way that supports the ocean and nature – and the countless people who depend on it.
A 2021 report by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy found that ocean-based climate and nature-based solutions like these could collectively reduce around 4 billion tonnes of gas emissions. greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2030 and over 11 billion tonnes by 2050 – equivalent to shutting down all coal-fired power plants in the world for one year.
Even modest investments in these solutions to create a sustainable blue economy would go a long way towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water), including gender equity and equitable access to economic benefits of the world’s marine resources.
As this year’s G20 chair and host of the group’s next leaders’ summit in November, Indonesia must lead by example, making major investments in the governance of marine and coastal ecosystems, promoting equal economic access, reducing marine debris and working to restore and conserve mangroves and other wetlands.
Indonesia, Australia and all other G20 countries must expand these efforts and increase collaboration, in order to strengthen and implement a robust and sustainable global blue economy that benefits all.
General (Retired) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan is the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment for Indonesia, which is this year’s G20 Chairman and host of the 17th Heads of State Summit and government of the group in November.
Dr Andrew Forrest AO is Founder and Chairman of the Minderoo Foundation, Australia, and a Fellow of Friends of Ocean Action at the World Economic Forum.