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Into the Blue . . . Economy - transforming challenges into opportunities & learning from advance

By Chloe Mcenery Beacham

June has been an important month for oceans. The ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ theme of World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June shone a spotlight on the devastation caused by plastics in the oceans - an issue already firmly in the public consciousness with images of sea turtles entangled in discarded ‘ghost’ fishing nets or seabirds choked by plastic bags regularly appearing in the media. The announcement of WED host India to eliminate all single-use plastics in the country by 2022, as well as pledges made by other countries to ban plastic bags, are positive steps towards meeting the challenge.

However, at the G7 summit in Canada on 8-9 June UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the destructive force of plastic pollution, declaring that despite commitments made at last year’s Ocean Conference the world now faces a “global emergency . . . [our] collective future and security is at stake”. Although not endorsed by the US, pledges made in the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities, and the Oceans Plastic Charter (adopted by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the EU) produced at the summit demonstrated their determination to meet these commitments.

Covering 70% of our planet and supporting more than 350 million jobs through fishing, aquaculture and tourism, oceans are equivalent to the world’s 7th largest economy in terms of GDP. Yet through anthropogenic activities, from the over-exploitation of marine resources to destruction of marine and coastal habitats, the health of our oceans has drastically declined, and a decoupling of oceans-related socioeconomic development from environmental degradation is urgently required. Indeed people - and perhaps more importantly, investors - are increasingly waking up to the fact that, as forests are the lungs of the planet, oceans and rivers are its lifeblood. And as Green Finance emerged to combat deforestation and carbon emissions, the concept of the ‘Blue Economy’ (BE) has emerged to reverse oceanic degradation and foster the shift towards a new, ocean-based sustainable economy. It is hoped the BE will bring investment products and market-based solutions to help meet UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 ‘Life below water’, which seeks ‘to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’.

Looking to provide solutions and a coherent approach to these pressing issues, the EU's Facility for Integrated Maritime Policy, BE and Climate Change (FacIMP/BE CC) commissioned Climatekos to produce a Handbook for practitioners to facilitate the preparation and assessment of applications for BE funding – drawing on our experience in financing climate action as the most advanced field in environmental finance. A step-by-step guide, the Handbook offers technical assistance to access financial instruments to leverage the investment necessary for a transition towards a BE. Facilitating integrated approaches to maritime and coastal affairs, it provides a toolkit to help catalyze financial flows to unlock the economic potential of the marine resources and economic activities around the Mediterranean, while still protecting valuable natural resources and ecosystem services this economic potential relies on.

Presenting the Handbook at a workshop on Marine Coastal Aquaculture (MCA) in Athens on June 18 - 21, Climatekos’ Partner Robert Tippmann said “The BE is an emerging concept, but the need for action is not. Providing benefits for current and future generations by restoring, protecting and maintaining the diversity and productivity of marine ecosystems, the Handbook aims to help practitioners achieve a triple bottom line of financial, social, and environmental returns.” Bringing 20 years of environmental and climate finance expertise and practical work experience in the Mediterranean and surrounding region to the table, Climatekos’ Handbook is expected to be published after the summer break

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