Blue economy sectors to reduce their environmental and climate footprint

The Commission comes up with a new approach for making it sustainable for all industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts

Photo: EU A tanker in the Port of Antwerp.

The EU’s blue economy is vital for the Green Deal and for the post-pandemic economic recovery, so the Commission suggested in a Communication on Monday a new approach for making it sustainable for all industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts and that could create new green jobs and businesses.

Fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, maritime transport, port activities and shipbuilding, which are the sectors of blue economy, will have to reduce their environmental and climate impact.

Dealing with the climate and biodiversity crises requires healthy seas and a sustainable use of their resources to create alternatives to fossil fuels and traditional food production.

Pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction, coupled with the effects of the climate crisis, all threaten the rich marine biodiversity that the blue economy depends on, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal underlined. According to him, there is a need of a shift as to develop a sustainable blue economy where “environmental protection and economic activities go hand in hand”.  

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs commented that the pandemic has hit the marine economy sectors “in different, but profound ways”. We have an opportunity to start afresh, and we want to make sure that the recovery shifts the focus from mere exploitation to sustainability and resilience, he said adding “to be truly green, we must also think blue”.

The new agenda puts in the forefront achieving the objectives of climate neutrality and zero pollution notably by developing offshore renewable energy, by decarbonising maritime transport and by greening ports. The EU executive estimates show that sustainable mix of floating wind, thermal, wave and tidal energy could generate a quarter of the EU's electricity in 2050.

In this respect, the role of ports is crucial to the connectivity and the economy of Europe's regions and countries and could be used as energy hubs.

To reduce pollution, the Communication proposes switch to a circular economy through renewed standards for fishing gear design, for ship recycling, and for decommissioning of offshore platforms, and other actions to reduce plastics and microplastics litter.

Protecting 30% of the EU's sea area will reverse biodiversity loss, increase fish stocks, contribute to climate mitigation and resilience, and generate significant financial and social benefits, the Commission says.

On the to-do list is also developing green infrastructure in coastal areas and protecting coastlines from the risk of erosion and flooding, that will create benefits for tourism and the coastal economy.

The suggested new approach will ensure sustainable food production and new marketing standards for seafood, use of algae and seagrass, stronger fisheries control and also research and innovation in cell-based seafood.

The new Blue Forum for users of the sea is intended to improve management of space at sea. It will coordinate a dialogue between offshore operators, stakeholders and scientists engaged in fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, renewable energy and other activities.

On the funding side, the Commission and the European Investment Bank Group, will increase their cooperation on a sustainable blue economy. They will work jointly with EU states to meet existing financing needs to reduce pollution in European seas and support investment for blue innovation and blue bioeconomy.

The transition towards more sustainable value chains based on the oceans, seas and coastal activities will be suppoted by the new European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, particularly by its ‘BlueInvest' platform and the new BlueInvest Fund.

Member States were advised by the Commission to include investments for a sustainable blue economy in their national resilience and recovery plans as well as their national operational programmes. In addition, a dedicated Mission on Oceans and Waters will be set up for the research programme Horizon Europe.



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