Monday, 6 February 2012

Healthy seas and coasts pay healthy dividends

       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. - 

MANILA: Healthy seas and coasts would pay healthy dividends in a green economy, according to a report released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and partners 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 paradigm that taps their natural potential -- from generating renewable energy and promoting eco-tourism, to sustainable fisheries and transport.

The report was produced by UNEP, the 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.

It highlights how the sustainable management of fertilisers would help reduce the cost of marine pollution caused by nitrogen and other nutrients used in agriculture, which is estimated at US$100 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 green economy transition 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% of the global population living within 100km 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% of mangroves have been destroyed, and more than 60% 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 realized."

"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 Steiner."

Fisheries and aquaculture

Approximately 30% of the world's fish stocks are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion and 50% are fully exploited.

According to FAO and World Bank estimates, the world economy can gain up to US$50 billion annually by restoring fish stocks and reducing fishing capacity to an optimal level.

 Aquaculture, the fastest growing food production sector, is creating new jobs and trade opportunities. But when poorly planned, it can increase pressure on the already suffering marine and coastal ecosystems.

Adoption of green technologies and investments to lower fossil fuel use could dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the sector while enhancing its contribution to economic growth, food and nutrition security and poverty reduction.

Green technologies include low-impact fuel-efficient fishing methods and innovative aquaculture production systems using environmentally friendly feeds.

Small-scale producers and traders in developing countries make up the majority of the 530 million fishery-dependent people in the world.

Strengthening regional and national fisheries agencies, as well as community and trade fishing associations and cooperatives, will be critical to the sustainable and equitable use of marine resources. -- UNEP Division of Communication and Public Information

       The Mambulao Bay, with baranggay Parang (right) and the poblacion of Mambulao 
       in the background. This bay is suffering the increasing pollution from gold mining 
       operations around the municipality, which has severely affected marine life in its 
       waters. – MWBuzzpic by ARNEL P HERNANDEZ

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