Sustainable Growth from the oceans, seas and coasts: blue growth
Water covers around 70 per cent of our planet’s surface. Not only is it vital – in the strictly literal sense of the word – but it also provides a resource that supports our society in so many different ways. The world’s oceans provide raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live, a place to relax and the means to transport about 90 per cent of global trade.
The very identity of hundreds of countries and regions around the world is historically and geographically entwined with the sea and the oceans. Nowhere is this more true than here in Europe, where 22 of the EU’s 27 member states have a coastline and, if you will forgive a slight geometrical imperfection, the triangle formed by the continent is bounded by the sea on two of its three sides.
It is difficult to measure precisely the worldwide economic value of ocean-based goods and services, but all estimates place the figure in the trillions of dollars. There are many industries that rely entirely on access to ocean resources, services and space, such as maritime transport, offshore oil and gas, ports, renewable energy, fisheries, aquaculture, marine tourism, and seabed mining. These, in turn, generate other industries that are also dependent on maritime activities. In my own field, shipping, these include shipbuilding and repair, ship design, ship broking and chartering, vessel traffic management, pilotage, ships’ agency and many, many more.
If all of these are included in what one might call the ‘blue economy’ then it becomes clear that we are addressing a very sizeable industrial sector – and one that is growing, too. Ocean-based industries are already large and they are expanding rapidly.
But this situation has an inherent quandary: for the success and growth of these industries is actually threatening the integrity of the very element that sustains them, supports them and gives them life – the sea. It has been widely documented that the global marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale. Species, critical habitats and the health of the marine ecosystem are all becoming endangered, to the extent where this is adversely affecting people who live in coastal regions and communities, worldwide, that depend on marine areas for food and livelihood.
Furthermore, conflicts in the use of ocean space and resources among the various stakeholders are increasing. Although the oceans cover such a large percentage of the earth's surface, they are becoming increasingly crowded.
So the search for growth in this sector – blue growth – is something of a balancing act. The varied and sometimes conflicting stakeholders all have a legitimate interest in the process, while the overall health of the seas themselves is a common concern. What is clearly needed is collaboration within and across different sectors to address impacts and reduce conflicts. Events such as this seminar provide a platform for such collaboration and help to ensure that stakeholders have the opportunity to engage constructively with one another – and I commend the Swedish hosts as well as the European Commission for the pro-active leadership role they have taken in organizing this seminar, to mark European Maritime Day.
Congratulations, Commissioner Damanaki. While I am delivering my speech at this hall, I feel nostalgic. As you may know, my background is in marine engineering and naval architecture and I feel the atmosphere of a workman place in shipbuilding yards – with the sounds and smell of the factory. Some thirty years ago, I was planning to visit Gothenburg as a part of a mission to visit European maritime clusters when I was working for the Japanese Ministry of Transport. That particular leg of the trip was cancelled and now, in this city, I feel nostalgic. But my speech today is not on my personal history and engagements.
“Blue growth” has been defined as "smart, sustainable and inclusive economic and employment growth from the oceans, seas and coasts". The key word here is “sustainable” – for which, again, there is a commonly accepted definition, namely “meeting the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the needs of future generations.”
This clearly suggests an integrated approach, with a long-term focus: an approach that not only responds to the world’s resource, climate and environmental challenges, but which also has an inter-generational element. As a maritime community, we need to ensure that growth is coordinated and planned, with input from all relevant stakeholders, and that opportunities for synergy are identified and taken. We also need to look forward – beyond the immediate economic cycle to future developments.
To achieve the development of sustainable economic and social growth based on the seas and oceans, when those seas and oceans are already under severe pressure, is a huge challenge. But this is the essence of blue growth and, I think, we are at the moment of the defining challenge for our community and our generation.
What “sustainability” really means, and of the necessity of achieving it, is, I think, gradually becoming the common knowledge of the public worldwide. What was once an aspiration is now an expectation. Indeed, sustainability has, itself, become a strong driver for growth. Whole new industries have developed as a result of it, and the quests for energy efficiency and new sources of power have inspired something of a renaissance in technological development and innovation.
Next month sees a crucial waypoint on the route to a sustainable and responsible future. I refer, of course, to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro.
The two main themes of Rio +20 are the green economy – which espouses much of the same ethos as the “blue growth” concept being considered here today, but with a far broader scope; and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Twenty years ago, the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio adopted the so-called ‘Agenda 21’, which included a set of recommendations related to shipping and the role of IMO. IMO’s responses have been both multifaceted and robust. At Rio+20, IMO will renew that commitment to sustainable maritime development.
Indeed, together with other UN Agencies, we have contributed to publications such as ‘A blueprint for ocean and coastal sustainability’ and ‘Green economy in a blue world.’ Also in the context of Rio+20, IMO and other stakeholders will hold a side-event during which we will focus on sustainable maritime development and what is needed to achieve it.
We will take the opportunity to highlight how, through its regulatory and technical co operation work, IMO will play a critical role in creating the conditions in which shipping will be able to play its part in a future green economy. Furthermore, IMO, in my view, also provides the ideal institutional framework for sustainable maritime development. This is the place where we, at IMO, also provide a contribution for the sustainable fishing industry. This year, in October, we will adopt a new areement to implement the Torremolinos Fishing Vessel Safety Protocol, at a Diplomatic Conference in South Africa.
I strongly believe that establishing a sustainable maritime transportation sector is essential to the development and growth of the world's economy as we move forward. But to achieve it will require the kind of coordinated and integrated approach to maritime policy. I believe that IMO is the place to integrate maritime policies on a global scale. I know that I can work with my European colleagues.
Ladies and gentlemen, shipping contributes significantly to the three pillars of sustainable development – social, environmental and economic. It facilitates global commerce and the creation of wealth and prosperity among nations and peoples, creating a wide variety of jobs aboard ships and ashore, with beneficial impacts, both direct and indirect, on the livelihoods of others.
But to achieve sustainable development in shipping, it is important to establish a coordinated and integrated approach to maritime policies. Energy efficiency, new technology and innovation, maritime education and training, maritime security, maritime traffic management and the development of maritime infrastructure are key elements to sustainable shipping, but these must be underpinned by global standards – standards developed and maintained by IMO.
We belong to a generation that has grown familiar with the image of our planet as seen from space; an image that instantly conveys the message that ours is a blue planet. And if our planet is to sustain “blue growth”, such growth must be coordinated, integrated and inclusive. I look forward to what promises to be a fascinating and productive seminar that I feel sure will make a significant contribution towards that common objective.
Source: Speech from IMO Secretary-General, Koji Sekimizu