Humans have been depending on the sea for centuries, before they even began sailing or fishing. The sea is health and life. It regulates the climate, is one of the main biodiversity reserves, and absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide we produce. Not for nothing does 40% of the global population live on coasts. Life tends to develop close to these great masses of water. And where there’s life, there’s economy. Below we take a look at what’s being called the blue economy, where sustainability meets the oceans meets the economy.
What will I learn from this article?
What is the blue economy?
Oceans, seas and coastal areas contribute to food security and poverty eradication. Over three billion people use the oceans for sustenance and 80% of world trade occurs over the seas.
But we are people and the way in which we exploit nature is the main threat to oceans. We prioritize economic benefits at the expense of environmental degradation and, as a consequence, the sea is being acidified, polluted, its temperature is rising, and species are being rendered extinct…
The problems suffered by marine ecosystems have repercussions well beyond the coasts. They threaten the whole planet, our means of feeding ourselves, and life as we know it. This is why urgent action is needed to protect the oceans and the people depending on them.
With this in mind, the blue economy was born, a concept which includes all the activities linked to water, the sea and oceans. It’s based not only on the traditional usage such as fishing and aquaculture, but also combines a broader vision of activities which can offer important sources of sustainable, economic development.
This is the key to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water, from the UN’s 2030 Agenda. A sustainable blue economy will allow society to obtain value from the oceans and coastal regions, while respecting their long-term capacity for regeneration and restoration of ecosystem health.
“A sustainable blue economy will allow society to obtain value from the oceans and coastal regions, while respecting their long-term capacity for regeneration and restoration of ecosystem health”
¿What does the blue economy consist of?
According to this report from the European Union (EU), the blue economy encompasses all the sectoral and inter-sectoral economic activities based on, or connected to, the oceans, seas and coasts.
It includes existing sectors such as fishing, coastal tourism and maritime transport, as well as focusing on the development of new emerging industries which hardly existed 20 years ago, such as blue carbon sequestration, the production of offshore renewable energy, and biotechnology. Activities which create opportunities for business, development and employment, but also tackle climate change.
According to the latest statistics, established sectors of the EU blue economy generated around 4.45 million jobs, 667.2 billion euros of revenue and 183.9 billion in gross added value.
The related report highlights that the living resource sector (fishing and agriculture) is one of those to have experienced largest growth. In 2019, it achieved gross profit valued at 7.2 billion euros, 41% up on 2009. Similarly, the offshore renewable energy sector (mainly wind power) is growing, creating 17% more jobs in 2019 than in 2018.
The report especially focuses on offshore wind energy growth. The first offshore wind farm was erected in 1991 off Denmark, and the number of offshore wind farms had risen to 162 in 2020, according to the World Forum Offshore Wind (WFO). The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Offshore Wind Outlook 2019, says offshore wind energy has the potential to generate more than 18 times current world electricity demand.
How does the blue economy help the planet?
The blue economy seeks to resolve some of the great challenges facing the world population. It is considered by the European Union to be a key element both of the European Green Deal and the economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis. “It is also indispensable for complying with the European Union’s environmental and climate goals,” says the European Commission.
The oceans are not only a source of jobs and wealth. The life of the planet and correct functioning of ecosystem services are sustained by marine ecosystems. The blue economy thus has the potential to achieve a sustainable development which does not compromise life on Earth tomorrow.
The blue economy contributes to climate change mitigation through the development of renewable energies on the high seas, the decarbonization of maritime transport, and ecologicalization of ports. Similarly, the green infrastructure development in coastal areas will help to preserve biodiversity and landscapes, while benefiting tourism and coastal economies. It is also the brand under which projects are launched to develop the sector’s circular economy, recycling vessels and removing disused offshore platforms.
The blue economy gives us the opportunity to produce economic resources related to the oceans, while restoring damaged ecosystems and introducing innovative technology that helps us efficiently and sustainably manage everything the seas can offer us.