3 Dec 2018 - Pavan Sukhdev, President of WWF International
Financing a sustainable blue economy
If the ten thousand delegates from more than 150 countries who attended the first high-level conference on the “Sustainable Blue Economy” are any indication, interest in the topic seems to be riding high. But will this indicator spell good or bad for a Sustainable Blue Economy, widely understood to mean an inclusive green economy1 for the ocean?
Humankind has historically pursued and achieved economic progress by exploiting frontiers2, moving to the next frontier once the former is exploited. However, to be “sustainable”, the blue economy needs a model quite different from our dominant economic model: a ‘take-make-dispose’ economy that converts public wealth into private profits, leaving in its wake a trail of devastation: distributional inequity, environmental externalities, and depleted resources for future generations.
Thus the central challenge for senior policy makers and business leaders travelling home from Nairobi is to provide a clear steer to prevent the ocean from being treated as the next new frontier for conventional capitalism since we have already exploited all previous ones. This emerging economy’s purpose will have to be agreed by these leaders for the world to have any hope of achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, which tasks us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
The blue economy’s main sectors include some familiar to all (ocean fisheries, tourism, transportation, marine energy, and seabed mining for minerals) and some unfamiliar (‘blue carbon’ sequestration by restoring mangroves and sea grasses, amongst the largest carbon stores). Restoring, protecting and maintaining the diversity, productivity and resilience of marine ecosystems will need clean technologies, renewable energy, and circular material flows.
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- Four defining features of an inclusive green economy to achieve the goals of sustainable development (“Towards a Green Economy”, UNEP, 2011 and “Uncovering Pathways Towards an Inclusive Green Economy: A Summary for Leaders”, UNEP, 2015) are increasing human well-being, increasing social equity, decreasing environmental risks and decreasing ecological scarcities.
- Edward B. Barbier, ”Scarcity and Frontiers: How Economies Have Developed Through Natural Resource Exploitation”, Cambridge University Press, 2011