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Mark Nicholls

Mark Nicholls

Mark is a writer for Environmental Finance. Environmental Finance is the leading global publication covering the ever-increasing impact of environmental issues on the lending, insurance,…

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The Blue-Green Economy and the Role of the Ocean in Sustainable Development

A global market in carbon captured within the world’s oceans – ‘blue carbon’ – should be established to help protect the marine environment, according to a major UN report.

Published on Tuesday by four UN agencies, led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the report is intended to inform discussions at the Rio +20 summit next June.

It examines the environmental challenges facing the world’s oceans, and argues that the wellbeing of human societies and economies is closely linked to the health of the marine environment. It also calls for a move to a ‘Blue-Green economy’, where the economic value provided by marine ecosystems is recognized and rewarded.

“The role of the ocean in sustainable development is one of our core messages for Rio,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, speaking at a side event at the UNESCO general conference on Tuesday. “The ocean must have its place in the agreement that States will reach next year … [but] importance of the ocean is not reflected in the political weight it has on the agenda for sustainable development.”

The oceans have a key role in regulating climate and providing protein, and they contain 90% of the world’s biomass. However, they are vulnerable to acidification caused by greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution from fertiliser run-off, and over-fishing, among other threats.

The report calls for larger areas of the world’s oceans to become protected – up from just 1% at present – and improved institutional and legal frameworks to protect the marine environment. It also calls for economic instruments to promote “nutrient efficiency and recovery”, and increased efforts to promote “responsible aquaculture”.

The report also suggests work be undertaken “with existing international carbon markets to define and implement a blue carbon market for protecting marine and coastal carbon sinks, and set targets for habitat protection in the context of blue carbon.”

It also proposes that “global acceptance of ocean and coastal habitats as a new form of tradable carbon market” be promoted “via a global blue carbon fund”.

Such a market would be a “means of creating direct economic gain through habitat protection”.

The report does not suggest over what timescale such a market would be created, nor who should be responsible for establishing it. However, the report states that: “There is ...  a strong case for the UN system to provide leadership through the fostering of enhanced dialogue, coordination and cooperative action among UN agencies, funds and programmes, possibly leading to a proposal on a reformed mechanism for ocean coordination to be put forward at Rio.”

“Rio+20, presents a unique opportunity to place the ocean at the heart of the global agenda for sustainable development,” Bokova added.

The other agencies involved in producing the report are the UN Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

By. Mark Nicholls

Source: Environmental Finance

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