But they also face a barrage of threats, from marine pollution and dwindling fish stocks, to the dramatic effect of climate change on coastal communities. Such challenges require new ways of thinking and innovative financing tools that address both the health and economic wealth of our oceans.
Seychelles is a good example of a country that is going beyond business as usual when it comes to preserving its natural assets. This deal raised funding to buy $21 million of Seychelles’ sovereign debt to reﬁnance it under more favorable terms, and then direct a portion of repayments to fund climate change adaptation, sustainable fisheries, and marine conservation projects – as well as to create an endowment for the benefit of future generations of Seychellois.
Many of us have seen the iconic photograph of a seahorse latched onto a cotton swab. It’s just one example of how prevalent plastic debris is in the ocean.
Every year, hundreds of tons of plastic trash enters the ocean, splintering into smaller and smaller pieces that are often eaten by marine animals and birds. The plastic trash is everywhere It’s in sediments at the bottom of the ocean, it floats at the surface, is washed up on remote islands, and is even frozen inside Arctic ice. Some estimates say that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea.
Now, there’s a gigantic mass of plastic waste the size of France floating in the Pacific Ocean. To call attention to it, the environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation paired up with news and entertainment publication LADBible and TV presenter Ross Kemp to campaign to have the giant mass of trash officially recognized by the UN as a country with its own citizens, currency, flag, passport and stamps.
LADBible has called this emerging nation The Trash Isles.
Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, is now the nation's first honorary citizen, and the Isles submitted an application to the United Nations to be recognized as the world’s 196th country.
The campaign also has a call to action, issued as The Trash Isles Manifesto:
- Develop biodegradable materials
- Introduce the carbon tax
- Create laws to increase recycling
You can join the more than 100,000 people who have already signed the petition to be granted citizenship become a Trash Isles citizen.
In 2006, I was working in Aceh, Indonesia (with the Red Cross), a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amongst other post-disaster recovery activities, we were working with 20 coastal communities, helping them with community-managed small grants and encouraging them to invest in disaster resilience within their communities.
To my delight, all 20 communities, independently, chose to invest in the restoration of their mangroves that had been completely or partially destroyed by the tsunami. To them, losing their mangroves was like losing their ancestors: Mangroves defended them, provided them with food and a livelihood, and made their coastline beautiful. The mangroves were their pride, and reclaiming the mangroves was of the highest priority for them as a community.
Much of West Africa’s population lives along its coastline, where many of its capital cities are located. But though rising seawaters erode it, a study says the “sand river” they create can also protect it.
Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, contributing trillions of dollars to the global economy and supporting the livelihoods of an estimated one in ten people worldwide. In many countries, with both developing and well-developed economies, tourism is appropriately viewed as an engine of economic growth, and a pathway for improving the fortunes of people and communities that might otherwise struggle to grow and prosper.
Much of that tourism depends on the natural world—on beautiful landscapes and seascapes that visitors flock to in search of escape, a second wind, and a direct connection with nature itself. Coastal and marine tourism represents a significant share of the industry and is an important component of the growing, sustainable Blue Economy, supporting more than 6.5 million jobs—second only to industrial fishing. With anticipated global growth rates of more than 3.5%, coastal and marine tourism is projected to be the largest value-adding segment of the ocean economy by 2030, at 26%.
60-90% of marine litter is plastic?
Did you know that each year about 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans?
Did you know that each year, over 4 billion coffee cups end up in landfills?
Did you know that up to 51 trillion micro plastic particles are already in our oceans?
Did you know that by 2050, an estimated 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic?Why do these numbers matter? With increased human activity both on land and seas, and unsustainable production and consumption habits, our oceans and other world’s bodies of water are getting more and more polluted. These numbers matter, because not only are the oceans a source of protein to millions of people worldwide, they also produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. According to some estimates by year 2050 oceans will be populated more by plastic than fish, if the current trend of plastic dumping continues. This is unacceptable.
In response to this global environmental problem, this month, UNEP launched an international campaign called “CleanSeas.” Committed to eliminate major sources of marine littering, waste created by humans that has been discharged into the coastal or marine environment, by the year 2022, UNEP is urging governments, private sector, and consumers to reduce production and usage of micro plastics and single-use plastics.
. WWF estimates that the ocean economy is the 7th largest economy, valued at US$ 24 trillion. With more than 6 million women directly employed in the fishery sector, and global job numbers set to grow to 43 million by 2030, the oceans are roaring. Yet, its natural capital has been systematically undervalued and overdrawn. According to the Bank’s Sunken Billions Revisited report, we are foregoing about $85 billion a year in additional revenues due to the mismanagement of fisheries. It is imperative that countries and citizens make informed decisions on resources, spatial planning and other important factors including the costs of marginalizing poor communities and the loss or degradation of critical habitats.
But oceans are often neglected in the development discourse. Obtaining the SDG 14 goal on oceans was a gargantuan, albeit noble effort. The Financing for Development architecture, the “Life below Water” goal and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) made in Paris, urge us to capitalize on a new narrative: long-term financing of sustainable ocean economies in a climate change context.
Enter Oceans 2030
This is why the Bank is looking at oceans anew. People who saw our Oceans 2030 banner asked us if George Clooney or Julia Roberts were attending the 2016 Spring Meetings. While neither could make it, 20 Ministers of Finance and their representatives came to the first high-level ministerial dialogue, “Oceans 2030: Financing the Blue Economy for Sustainable Development”.
With a cast including Bank VP Laura Tuck and Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Environment, Energy and the Sea (and COP-21 President), countries tackled complex questions about the ‘Blue Economy’. What’s stopping us from maximizing returns in jobs and GDP from a thriving blue economy with growing natural resource assets? How can we reduce uncertainty and produce sustainable, investable projects? Whether it is Seychelles’s blue bonds, USA on eco-tourism, the ‘Gabon Bleu’ or Colombia’s actions to address the inequality in coastal populations, countries are starting to see the merits of a balanced approach for harnessing the potential and wealth of oceans. They’re looking for ideas, finance, and knowledge to grow sectors like aquaculture, marine tourism especially cruises, marine biotechnology and cancer research.
Last month I had the pleasure of attending a ‘trilogue’ organized by the European Commission for policymakers, scientists and the private sector on the subject of fisheries. I realized very quickly that the discussion went well beyond a traditional view of fisheries and instead was focused on sustainable fishing – no longer a long-term ambition but a real-time response to the need to grow economies and prepare to feed the additional 2+ billion people coming to dinner in the next 20 years. It seems that sustainable fishing – definitely not quickly enough and certainly not everywhere yet – is an emerging new normal. Just how has this happened?