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Marine Green Investments Provide Benefits

27 January 2012, at 12:00am

GENERAL - Healthy seas and coasts would pay healthy dividends in a green economy, according to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), WorldFish Center and GRID-Arendal, that highlights the huge potential for economic growth and poverty eradication from well-managed marine sectors.

The report, Green Economy in a Blue World, argues that the ecological health and economic productivity of marine and coastal ecosystems, which are currently in decline around the globe, can be boosted by shifting to a more sustainable economic approach that taps their natural potential - from generating renewable energy and promoting eco-tourism, to sustainable fisheries and transport.

It highlights how the sustainable management of fertilizers would help reduce the cost of marine pollution caused by nitrogen and other nutrients used in agriculture, which is estimated at US$100 billion (EUR 80 billion) per year in the European Union alone.

With five months to go before world governments meet at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil, Green Economy in a Blue World presents a case to stimulate countries to unlock the vast potential of the marine-based economy in a paradigm shift that would significantly reduce degradation to our oceans, while alleviating poverty and improving livelihoods.

The synthesis report also examines how Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as those in the Asia-Pacific and Caribbean regions, can take advantage of green economy opportunities to reduce their vulnerability to climate change and promote sustainable growth.

With as much as 40 per cent of the global population living within 100 kilometres of the coast, the world’s marine ecosystems (termed the ‘Blue World’ in the report) provide essential food, shelter and livelihoods to millions of people. But human impacts are increasingly taking their toll the health and productivity of the world’s oceans.

Today, some 20 per cent of mangroves have been destroyed, and more than 60 per cent of tropical coral reefs are under immediate, direct threat.

“Oceans are a key pillar for many countries in their development and fight to tackle poverty, but the wide range of ecosystem services, including food security and climate regulation, provided by marine and coastal environments are today under unprecedented pressure”, said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Stepping up green investments in marine and coastal resources and enhancing international co-operation in managing these trans-boundary ecosystems are essential if a transition to low-carbon, resource efficient Green Economy is to be realised.”

“In the run-up to Rio+20, this report shows that a shift to a Green Economy can if comprehensively implemented unlock the potential of marine ecosystems to fuel economic growth – particularly in small island developing states – but in ways that ensure that future generations derive an equitable share of marine resources and services, added Mr Steiner.”

Dr Linwood Pendleton, one of the contributors to the report, and Director of Ocean and Coastal Policy at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, said: “This report provides concrete examples of how emerging ocean industries—including ocean energy and aquaculture industries—can become more profitable, more sustainable, and meet the needs of a growing population without sacrificing the health of our fragile ocean ecosystems.”

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