Wednesday December 06, 2023

Save the ocean

January 15, 2021

It is folly to imagine we can solve the global challenges posed by climate change by simply leaving the ocean alone. Of course, we need to allow ecosystems to recover and regenerate, but for reasons of food security and positive economic activity, we also need to give tangible support to more sustainable ocean business and production practices.

The ocean’s main industries contribute more than $1.9 trillion a year to the global economy. A new study by Duke University in the United States and the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, titled ‘The Ocean 100’, shows the 100 largest transnational corporations account for 60 percent of these revenues. This study suggests that by working closely together with these ‘keystone’ businesses, we could set new standards for how we manage our one, shared ocean.

As a supporting member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, I agree. Our work has shown that targeted areas of ocean action could reduce the ‘emissions gap’ (the difference between emissions expected if current trends and policies continue and emissions consistent with limiting global temperature increase) by up to 21 percent on a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway.

Thus, we need to urgently accelerate our efforts to ensure a transparent, science-based approach to solutions such as sustainable ocean-based food production, energy from offshore wind, decarbonisation of shipping, and the conservation and restoration of wetlands, mangroves and seagrass beds.

We know that largely through the development of sustainable mariculture, the ocean could produce up to six times more food than it currently does. We also know the ocean could produce 40 times more renewable energy than it does today. Making investments in these areas could both help to mitigate global climate change and revolutionise for the better the lives of millions of people.

For too long there has been a serious disconnect between our scientists, governments and the large transnational corporations that dominate the ocean economy. Proper protection of our shared ocean means changing the way governments, scientists, the private sector, and citizens work together to achieve sustainable outcomes.

In his recent Reith Lectures, Dr Mark Carney, the United Nations secretary-general’s special envoy on Climate Action and Finance, argued that we cannot achieve net-zero carbon emissions without the innovation, investment and profit provided by the market. But Dr Carney says the power of the market must be directed to achieving what society values.

Excerpted: ‘What can corporations do to help save the ocean?’