EU Blue Economy approach published - putting the blue into green
21 June 2021
Marine resource protection has been a key objective of the EU’s environmental policy since before the launch of the European Green Deal.
The ocean itself and how marine resources are utilised – the blue economy - have roles to play in decarbonisation, climate adaptation, biodiversity and ecosystem protection, pollution prevention and the circular economy.
The Commission communication does not presage a list of new regulatory requirements or mandatory measures. Instead, it largely looks at how other proposals under the European Green Deal tie into the marine resource protection objective, as well as emphasising the need for investment and research. Aims include:
- Increasing renewable energy production via a mix of wind, thermal, wave and tidal energy as detailed in the EU strategy on offshore renewable energy
- Decarbonising marine infrastructure, such as ports and maritime transport (as discussed in the EU Sustainability and Smart Mobility Strategy)
- Reducing ocean pollution, particularly via single-use and micro plastics, and via circularity (e.g. introducing as few new virgin materials into the economy as possible)
- Preserving and restoring coastal ecosystems to increase “blue carbon” sequestration.
- Responsible food systems, which will include a new legislative proposal for aquaculture and fisheries and a new sustainable seafood marketing standard
- Review of maritime spatial planning rules, including a review of the EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning
- Initiatives to channel capital towards the sustainable blue economy, including public finance and support for the UN Environmental Finance Programme Initiative (UNEP FI) voluntary Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative
Blue economy policy is particularly susceptible to the need for cross-border alignment in order to be truly effective. As it has done in the context of the sustainable financial economy, the Commission has signalled the intention to take an international leadership role in the sustainable blue economy. This will include:
- arguing for a global biodiversity framework that protects and restores marine ecosystems and habitats, with a global agreement to protect at least 30% of the world’s sea area at the upcoming CBD COP 15
- pushing for a global agreement on plastics and promoting broader adoption of the circular economy approach to plastics
- seeking cooperation with its neighbours on tailored strategies for each EU sea basin
With growing interest in blue bonds and blue finance and increased interest in the role of the oceans in climate change, it is likely that we’ll see more on this topic over the next year.
Author: Kelly Sporn