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05 October 2020

The Blue Economy: The Key to the Future of a Green Planet

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Blue and green are the predominant colors on our planet when it is observed from space. That’s why the blue and green economies are deeply related and aim to protect the Earth’s resources through a sustainable resource exploitation system. 

When we talk about sustainability and the green, low carbon, economy, with efficient use of resources and social inclusion, we cannot forget that more than 70 percent of our planet’s surface is covered by seas and oceans and therefore – dressed in blue. This is where the blue economy, that which considers the seas and oceans as drivers of growth and innovation for sustainable and profitable economic development, becomes relevant. 

The slogan for World Maritime Day 2020, celebrated on September 24th, was “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet”. / Image: Unsplash

The European Commission uses the term blue growth to refer to the long-term sustainable growth strategy for the different sectors of economic activity related to the maritime environment. Specifically, the blue economy contemplates activities such as fishing, aquaculture, seafloor mining, the use of the marine environment to produce different types of renewable energy, and activities related to tourism or blue biotechnology, which explores the diversity of the aquatic environment in order to come up with different consumer products and materials, including medicine and key substances for scientific research. 

According to figures from the same institution, the blue economy generates approximately 5.4 million jobs and a gross added value of nearly €500 billion a year. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement in different areas, which is precisely what the European Commission blue growth strategy aims to strengthen. 

Blue economy: an experiment for more than 20 years 

Although the term is consolidated in the European language of the region’s sustainability strategy, in its English version, the expression “blue economy” has another meaning. It was coined by the Belgian economist Gunter Pauli in 1994 in response to a United Nations request to prepare for COP3 in Japan where the Kyoto Protocol was decided in 1997. The term defined by Pauli, called by some media outlets the “Steve Jobs of sustainability”, defines a philosophy in which the economic model allows producers to offer the best at lower prices, thanks to the introduction of innovations that generate multiple benefits, and not just higher profit, as he explains on his personal website.

For more than 20 years now, Gunter Pauli has been publishing case studies that would confirm the foundation of his economic proposal, linked to the circular, local and sustainable economy. Image: wikimedia

Beyond the European version focused on seas and oceans, Pauli’s concept applies globally and also puts the focus on local economies. It could apply to any business sector, however, always with a focus on eliminating what is not necessary. Since 1994, Gunter Pauli has verified his economic proposal with more than 180 analyses of specific cases – available on the website for his project. An extensive experiment by this economist and writer that has allowed him to confirm how it is possible to generate more income while creating more jobs and still being able to compete in the global economy. Without a doubt, the blue economy – however it is defined –  is always aligned with the goals of the green economy. 

The blue economy is getting greener  

Going back to the European framework of the concept, although the European Commission report on the state of the blue economy in 2020 underlines the negative effects the COVID-19 health crisis has had on sectors like coastal and marine tourism, or fishing and agriculture, the European Commission concludes that the blue economy as a whole has enormous potential in terms of its contribution to a green recovery.

According to the report, more and more innovative industries in the aquatic environment are emerging, such as the new marine sources of renewable energy. In this regard, the European Union is a global leader in ocean energy technology and is on its way to producing 35 percent of its electricity from marine sources by 2050. In offshore wind energy, for example, the number of jobs created in the sector has increased nine times over the past 10 years. 

The European Union is a global leader in ocean energy technology and is on its way to producing 35 percent of its electricity from marine sources by 2050. 

The blue economy also helps to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals by reducing CO2 emissions, for example. The European Commission assures that aquaculture and fishing are on the rise as economic activities, but their production of greenhouse gases is not. Without a doubt, the blue economy is getting greener.  

Dory Gascueña para OpenMind

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