Remarks by Nick Nuttall, UNEP Acting Director of Communications, on World Oceans Day, Durban za, dec 3, 2011

Durban, 3 December 2011-I would like to make a few remarks about a new report by UNEP entitled the Green Economy in a Blue World.

It builds on UNEP's wider work on the Green Economy, launched in 2008, and responds to a statement by the G77 and China which called for a Green Economy to recognize the enormous importance of seas and oceans to the sustainable development of developing countries including small island developing states.

UNEP's main Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development report which is aimed at informing Rio+20 next year, was launched a few weeks ago in Beijing.

It addresses ten sectors one of which is fisheries.

• Investing around US$8 billion a year in rebuilding and greening the world's fisheries could raise catches to 112 million tonnes annually while triggering benefits to industry, consumers and the global economy totalling US$1.7 trillion over the next 40 years

• The investment, some of which can be covered by phasing down or phasing out some of the US$27 billion-worth of fishing subsides currently in place, is needed to dramatically reduce the excess capacity of the world's fishing fleets while supporting workers in alternative livelihoods

• Funding is also required to reform and re-focus fisheries management, including through policies such as tradable quotas and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, in order to allow depleted stocks to recover and grow

Such measures, backed up by bold and forward-looking investments, would not only generate important economic and environmental returns. They would also assist in fighting poverty by securing a primary source of protein for close to one billion people.

The Green Economy in a Blue World report, produced by UNEP in collaboration with many partners, goes into greater detail and analysis and also builds on The Economic of Ecosystems and Biodiversity work initiated by the G8 and developing country Environment Ministers.

It will be launched at the Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections 'Towards Greener Coastal Economies' in Manila in January 2012.

The report argues that the ecological health and economic productivity of oceans, which is currently on a significant decline, can be reversed by shifting to a more sustainable economic paradigm in which human well-being and social equity are improved while environmental risks and ecological scarcities are reduced.

In this sense, many ocean industries and businesses stand to benefit directly from healthier more ecologically robust marine ecosystems.

Let me briefly highlight a few findings

Shipping

While this sector is making gains in terms of fuel efficiencies, there is a need to scale-up and accelerate such transformations.

The report points to greener technologies to further reduce fuel consumption in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions but also to address also to address ballast water and hull fouling, which hit economies with an estimated loss of USD 100 billion per year due to the introduction of marine invasive species.

Marine-based renewable energies

It is estimate that around 1% of all renewable energy is marine-based (2008). However, as these technologies become more cost-effective and their utilisation become more viable, the potential for green jobs and a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy is considerable.

Governments, could incentivate this sector through long-term policies and marine spatial planning in order to offer concession in areas with low risks to marine and coastal ecosystems.

Tourism

There is huge potential to 'green' the tourism sector.

From the demand side, estimates point that more than a 1/3 of travellers favour environmentally friendly experiences, so unlocking this potential would be a significant gain for countries.

One job in the core industry creates up to one and half additional jobs in the tourism-related economy.

The related industries such as sourcing local products (sustainable farming and fishing) and safeguarding local culture are examples of where green investments could be targeted.

Managing Fertilizer Discharges into Coastal Waters

Cumulatively over 2 billion tonnes of 'new' reactive nitrogen has been produced and added to the earth's biosphere over the last 50 years, primarily as fertilizer.

The massive increase in available reactive nitrogen over this period has led to a roughly three-fold increase in the amount of nitrogen – from agricultural run-off (fertilizer 45% and manure 45%) and wastewater (10%) – reaching coasts and oceans from the continents.

Based on projections of population growth, agricultural expansion and changes in consumption patterns, emissions could expand by an additional 2.4-2.7 times by the year 2050.

There is an urgent need to reduce this burden and impacts—including the growth in deoxygenated 'dead zones' which are growing around the world's coastal waters.

UNEP's 2011 Year Book estimates that in the United States alone, the costs of fertilizer and sewage in respect to damage to coastal ecosystems and tourism is running at over US$2 billion a year, indicating that globally and annually the damage may run into the tens of billion of dollars.

There are multiple options that can assist with wide-ranging Green Economy benefits.

Better management of wastewater for example.

Some 10 per cent of the world's population is being supplied with food grown using wastewater for irrigation and fertilizer and with better management and training of farmers this could be increased substantially.

Indeed, the concentration of nutrients in wastewater "could supply much of the nitrogen and much of the phosphorous and potassium normally required for crop production. Other valuable micro-nutrients and organic matter contained in the effluent would also provide benefits".

Rio+20 Contributions

There are numerous success stories where a green economy transition is in part taking place at the national level and countries can learn from the success of others—yesterday I attended an event where South Africa outlined its strategy.

South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya in Africa are three of several examples on this Continent.

Rio+20, under its twin themes of a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and an institutional framework for sustainanble development, offers an opportunity to scale-up and accelerate these transition.

Not as an alternative universe to sustainable development, but as a means of implementing and realizing it.

We hope that the Green Economy in a Blue World can assist in providing a spark that can light up the opportunities for the marine environment when world leaders meet in Rio in six to seven months' time.

It is above all a UN-wide effort under the theme of an Ocean Compact.

The marine environment is more than money, it is about jobs and livelihoods and echoes to humanity's spiritual side.

But perhaps through understanding the enormous economic losses being sustained by coastal countries and small islands, and the enormous opportunities from investing and re-investing in marine ecosystem—backed by smart public policy—perhaps we can together tip the balance away from degradation and destruction to sustainable management for this generation and the ones to come.

 
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