Opinion article by Pierre Rousseau on Blue Economy

December 4, 2020

Rising after Covid-19: the role of the blue economy as a step towards a sustainable business outlook

Investors and financial institutions, responsible for funding the economy, must find the solutions and create the products to support their clients to renew the businesses’ activities (that were disrupted by corona virus pandemic) and accelerate the transition to a new sustainable economy of the future (new growth and jobs). From an Ocean conservation perspective, that encompasses a sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources – as stated in the UN’s SDG # 14 – “Life below water”.

Oceans occupy an important place on our planet, if it was a nation it would rank as the 7th largest economy in the world. It generates, directly and indirectly, more than $ 2.5 trillion of GDP and provides more than 35 million of direct jobs. The Ocean economy encompasses nowadays mainly the ocean-based industries, such as Tourism, Energy, Shipping and Fishing, but and increasingly, the natural assets and the ecosystems services that the Ocean provides, with plenty of new opportunities led by technology and innovation. Indeed the Ocean remains widely unexplored – even more than the moon.

While the potential of the Ocean to address some of the existing challenges of our world – climate change, generation of energy, food security, and medical care – is massive, on another side, it has its own challenges to face – over-exploitation, pollution, biodiversity loss and huge gas emissions – in order to be able to develop a Blue Economy. To succeed on that, all the existing Ocean-related businesses need to go through deep transformation on the way they are being performed.

On which concerns the Maritime transportation industry (80% of Planet’s cargo), for instance, a joint effort spearheaded by global shipping banks, in collaboration with key industry stakeholders and with the support of experts, were at the origin of the definition of The Poseidon Principles – a global framework for responsible ship finance. It integrates climate considerations into banking portfolios and credit decisions to promote international shipping’s decarbonisation. The purpose of the Principles is to meet the ambition of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050, in comparison with 2008. They will provide the tools to measure and manage the CO2 intensities of shipping financing portfolios based on a common methodology for all signatory banks, of which BNP Paribas makes part.

If we think about Tourism, mass market tourism has been massively developed across the planet through large hotels and Ocean resorts, as well as massive cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers, without any consideration on climate change, biodiversity loss or local community inclusion. At the same time that preserving its economical contribution to the countries’ GDP and employment; it is urgent that Maritime and Coastal tourism evolves towards an Eco-sustainable Blue Tourism.

Portugal has the 3rd largest exclusive economic zone in European Union and surprisingly the blue economy only accounts for around 5% of the national GDP. There is a huge potential to develop the blue economy namely in ocean energy (floating offshore wind, waves and tides) and aquaculture (fish and seaweed). In order to boost the long-term development of Blue Economy in the country, new public and private initiatives are emerging, such as: Fórum Oceano. The Portuguese official blue economy cluster, which already gathers more than 100 members covering different sectors of activity of Blue Economy and complementary areas, which cannot be led apart (i.e. the banking industry). We are looking forward to participating in large international projects and to accelerating investment in the sustainable blue economy. On the same page, new startup incubators for Ocean are being created, to boost entrepreneurship and foster a sustainable blue economy in the Atlantic area. A good example of it is the new European consortium named Atlantic Smart Ports Blue Acceleration Network – which gathers the main European Ports, Accelerators, Maritime Clusters and other relevant public and private stakeholders.

The Blue Economy related to all the Ocean-based economical activities has the particularity to integrate systematically sustainability in its business model: climate change, biodiversity and social inclusion, as well as generating profitable growth.

As clear sign of the contribution by the banking industry, 185 banks agreed on the definition and application of The Principles for Responsible Banking – which provides the framework for a sustainable banking system. By joining this movement for change, leading the way towards a better future, in which the banking community demonstrates how it makes a positive contribution to people and the planet, as expected by society. Moreover, in particular to Ocean conservation and the Blue Economy.

Blue Economy has been postponed by the entire economic and environmental community in what concerns a real action plan, but it must be assumed as a priority, in its role as game changer for the entire planet.

From the space, it appears that its colour is still mainly the blue: Blue Planet!

Read the original Pierre Rousseau opinion article on Observador here.