Project Syndicate (USA): the concept of “blue” economic recovery

Oslo/Ngerulmud — Crisis сovid-19 global, it has hit all countries, from Jamaica to Palau and from Norway to Indonesia. And work to restore the economies of the world must also be global, focused on the use of our common possibilities. Nowhere is this need is not as obvious as in the global environment that unites us all: the oceans. Today we have to seize the potential of 70% of the planet to give “blue boost” the economy of our countries, simultaneously building a more sustainable and stable world.

The ocean plays a key role in life on earth. It absorbs a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions and more than 90% of additional heat that arises due to these emissions. The cost of the economy in the oceans, estimated at more than $2.5 trillion annually. The ocean provides seafood and fish more than three billion inhabitants of the planet every day, as well as livelihoods and income for the three billion people. Across the oceans are transported about 90% of world trade. It is a source of energy and key ingredients to fight disease. For many of us it is a place of work and home.

We represent countries that are actively looking for in the ocean sources of goods and services from aquaculture in the fjords of Norway to the tourism and fishing industries in Palau. Our problems are different, but we are bound by the fact that the pandemic is much threatened. In 2020 the global tourism industry will face serious problems, and in subsequent years it will remain full of uncertainties. Any further recovery will likely be long and difficult. For example, Palau predicts a decline in the number of incoming tourists 52% in 2020 and 92% in 2021, which will lead to a decline in GDP of 23%. Food security is also under threat. The production chain is broken due to the measures of social distancing and quarantine, it is particularly vulnerable sector of the fishing and production of seafood.

Today, when the world is busy evaluating the impact of a pandemic and planning for the future economic recovery, the high level Group on sustainable economy of the oceans (short — Group of the oceans; we are in it by the co-chairs) emphasizes that “blue nature” should occupy a Central place in our intellectual work. The ocean will play a key role, not only in the field of health and medicine, food and energy security, scientific discovery, in mitigation and adaptation to climate change, but also (and this is probably the most important for the post-pandemic future) to enhance the resilience to similar shocks.

To the ocean really was able to play that role, the path to economic recovery should include the organization of the closed system of waste disposal, due to the acceleration of the establishment of recycling economy. Remember about plastic pollution, which distorts our landscapes, fills our oceans, damaging the health of the poorest people in the world. Two billion people do not have access to the control systems, waste collection, and the pandemic is likely to exacerbate this situation. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016 the number of new infected debris was estimated at 240 litres per day for each sick with Ebola.

Pollution of the oceans is not limited to plastics, among other pollutants — pesticides, heavy metals, organic substances, antibiotics. As shown by the study commissioned by Group of the oceans, we need to address the root sources of the problem of ocean pollution, if we want to ensure the health of our planet and the welfare of the people.

Take a look at the role of oceans in food security. The ocean is a key part of solving medium-term problems caused by the disruption of food systems, as well as long-term problems of providing food to ten billion people by 2050. And this is especially true of countries such as Palau, where the nutritional diet of the population almost entirely depend on the ocean. The fishing industry in West Africa helped to feed the population in conditions when agricultural lands were abandoned due to the Ebola epidemic. Fish have played a Central role in ensuring that proteins of the residents of both coastal and interior regions. As shown by another study commissioned by the Group oceans through better management and innovation, the ocean is capable of providing six times more food than today.

Some of the vulnerabilities in local and international chains of production of seafood, which revealed the current crisis has already been eliminated. Production chains become shorter and more stable, thanks to the increasing capacity of cold storage, expansion of the role of artisanal, small fisheries, and increasing local demand.

Sustainability should be the goal of our economic policy. The global crisis caused by сovid-19, does not resolve our long-term climatic and oceanic problems. On the contrary, it makes us more vulnerable to them. But he does not deprive us of the opportunities offered by sustainable ocean economy. For example, under the economic recovery Norway invests in green sea transportation, including the construction of new vessels, running on energy sources with zero emissions (such as hydrogen and batteries); this will not only reduce pollution but also create jobs.

The arguments in favor of the development of a healthy and sustainable ocean economy is very convincing. Investments in measures relating to the oceans (including the decarbonization of shipping, the protection and restoration of mangrove forests, sustainable production of fish and seafood, the development of renewable energy), for the world. And it’s not just about financial benefits, but also about improving the health of consumers, improve the wealth of biodiversity and stability of jobs. The stability of the ocean should not be viewed simply as a problem of nature conservation, but also as a priority for the future of our economy, ecosystems and society.

Extraordinary global nature of the crisis сovid-19 means that we all together have to work to achieve a sustainable future to which we aspire. During the year, the Group oceans will publish a programme of action which will contain a plan that combines measures of effective protection, improve sustainability of production and equal prosperity; these actions will help to make the world more resilient to economic shocks, epidemic crises and resulting from them social failures. At the same time we are working with our colleagues in the Group of the oceans, exchanging experience, insights, knowledge and talking about the problems; we invite others to join us.

Taking today the measures for the fight against the pandemic, as well as for economic restart and renovation, based on the “blue economy”, we will be able to ensure the health and wealth of the ocean to stimulate our economy and create more sustainable, stable and prosperous future for all of us.

Erna Solberg Prime Minister of Norway.

Tommy Remengesau, Jr., President of Palau.