Monaco Ocean Week Buoys the Blue Economy

Plastic wave advances on one of India’s Olive Ridley sea turtle nesting beaches. Worldwide, six of the seven sea turtle species are classified as threatened or endangered due to human activities. (Photo by Srikanth Mannepuri courtesy Ocean Image Bank, The Ocean Agency) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact

MONACO, March 26, 2022 ( Sustainability News) – The millionaires, scientists and sailors of Monaco have been laser focused this week on ocean conservation as the heartbeat of the “blue economy.” Just concluded, Monaco’s annual Ocean Week offered, in the words of host HSH Prince Albert II, “a unique framework for exchanges, meetings, experiments and openness.”

A wealthy sovereign city-state on the French Riviera, just west of Italy, Monaco is surrounded by France and the Mediterranean Sea. The tiny principality is home to some 40,000 residents, and even with the world’s shortest coastline, 3.83 km (2.38 mi), has three ports and a close relationship with the ocean.

To make the international community aware of the complex cluster of ecological, food and economic issues facing the world’s oceans, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and its partners – the Oceanographic Institute, the Scientific Center, and the Yacht Club of Monaco, with the support of the government, invited international players in the management and protection of the oceans to the 2022 edition of Monaco Ocean Week.

This 5th edition of the Monaco Ocean Week took place from March 21 to 26 with an overarching theme – the vitality of the planet and the ocean can go hand in hand with the vitality of the economy.

Opened by the Monaco Blue Initiative, the events attracted scientists, experts, NGOs and representatives of civil society throughout the week, who grappled with plastic pollution, ocean acidification, coral reefs,  scientific research, and the blue economy.

In his opening speech, Prince Albert called for general mobilization to help an ocean under a myriad of threats, saying, “The best thing to do is to build a dialogue between the various players concerned to bring together knowledge, expertise and resources, to build shared diagnoses, ambitions and strategies.”

John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, attended in person and shared an optimistic attitude. “We cannot fight the climate crisis without the potential of the ocean. The ocean is a source of sustainable climate solutions,” Kerry said. “Just think of the jobs that these developments will create. The fact is, we are facing the greatest economic transformation the world has seen since the industrial revolution.”

Other speakers called for companies to engage in the blue economy with the support of science. The mobilization of the private sector is essential, many said, because there is a tremendous pool of jobs, and also because conservation must rely on the means and tools of the private sector.

“International and national laws are not enough to solve the many problems of sustainable development and the ocean component is one of the most complex. The private sector has the opportunity, through the principles of corporate social responsibility, to support this paradigm shift,” explained Ricardo Serrão Santos, Minister of the Sea in Portugal.

As Portugal’s Minister of the Sea, Santos will be busy this year. To support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water, the global community will convene at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, for a five-day meeting beginning June 27.

To stimulate  political direction, the regulatory framework and the commitment of private actors, speakers said, it is necessary to take into account the “ecosystem services,” the non-monetary benefits of a healthy ocean.

Science must be the link between the different actions, bringing together diagnosis, political impetus and operational tools for everyone. Speakers stressed the urgency of developing a set of long-term decision-making and management tools integrating the major environmental and social objectives to assist companies that find it difficult to set ocean conservation goals that make sense.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Phi Phi National Park, Thailand (Photo by Sean Chinn courtesy Ocean Image Bank, The Ocean Agency) Posted for media use

“We need leaders in all industries. Even if these sectors seem … far from the ocean, these leaders will pave the way, experiment, and cascade other companies in their supply chain, their partners, and even consumers. It is step by step that we will develop attention to the ocean,” summarized Robert Calcagno, director general of the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco.

The financial sector can contribute by providing its tools to value the future and in particular the risks: those that can result from climate change and the degradation of biodiversity and, conversely, the way nature-based solutions can reduce these risks with preservation and restoration of mangroves and coral reefs.

To accomplish this, financiers need precise data on the state of the environment, the services provided by oceans today, and models to predict their future evolution.

“New mechanisms need to be created to aggregate various sources of funding – public, private, philanthropy – and benefits that are also of a varied nature, monetizable or not. The Global Fund for Coral Reefs is a good example of this,” said Olivier Wenden, vice-president and managing director of the Prince Albert II Foundation.

For governments, taking the long term into account is the key to aligning the pandemic recovery plans emerging around the world and the preservation of the ocean and the planet. It’s not just about fixing the economy after Covid, but also about building it for decades to come, speakers said.

Annick Girardin, French Minister for the Sea, said, “The blue economy must therefore constitute one of the pillars of the recovery plans. We need to build back better, and in blue!”

Also, Virginijus Sinkevičius , European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said, “The blue economy will play a major role in our transformation, we will not meet the ambitions of the European Green Deal without the blue economy.”

Reversing the Oceans’ Decline

The science is clear – the ocean is facing unprecedented threats as a result of human activities. The ocean is a victim of global warming, most scientists agree. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that, “The ocean has warmed faster over the past century than since the end of the last deglaciation 11,000 years ago.”

The ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, is the planet’s largest biosphere, and is home to up to 80 percent of all life in the world, according to the United Nations. It generates 50 percent of the oxygen we need, absorbs 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90 percent of the additional heat generated from those emissions. It is not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink – a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.

The ocean nurtures over a million species and produces food, jobs, mineral and energy resources needed for life on the planet to survive and thrive. There is a great deal we still do not know about the ocean but there are many reasons why we need to manage it sustainably – as set out in the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Billions of humans, animals and plants rely on a healthy ocean, but rising carbon emissions are making it more acidic, weakening its ability to sustain life underwater and on land.

Plastic waste is choking ocean waters, and more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction by 2100, the UN warns.

But all is not bad news. Peter Thomson of Fiji, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, says momentum for positive change is building around the world, with people, especially youth, mobilizing to do their part to reverse the decline in ocean health.

Thomson is focused on the many solutions to ocean decline that are now in the works.

“There are 1,000 solutions, and a fleet of them will be launched at the UN Ocean conference in Lisbon,” Thomson said.

“One that I particularly like talking about is nutrition,” Thomson said. “We all know that the sea provides very healthy nutrition compared with some of the other things that are produced on land.”

“We don’t eat what our grandparents ate. We have a totally different diet … our grandchildren will be eating very differently from the way we eat,” he said. They won’t be eating big fish but small fish grown in sustainable aquaculture conditions. They’ll be eating a lot more algae and phytoplankton.

“We will be eating some kind of marine tofu which is made from phytoplankton. We’ll be farmers of the sea rather than hunter-gatherers, which is what we still are. It’s the only place we still are, which is out on the ocean. So those sorts of transformations are underway, but we have to invest in the transformations, and we have to start doing that now,” Thomson said.

The Ocean Decade: 2021 – 2030

Monaco Ocean Week is held within the framework of the UN’s Decade of the Ocean, which aims to mobilize the scientific community, political decision-makers, companies and civil society around a common program of research and technological innovation.

Proclaimed in 2017 by the UN General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is inspired by a vision – “the science we need for the ocean we want.”

Through 2030, events will be held to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyze new opportunities for sustainable development.

Monaco Ocean Week was studded with those events.

At the Ocean Innovators Platform convened by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, a global community of youth, entrepreneurs, and experts, attendees explored the idea that “aquatic ecosystems have the capacity to absorb an
important quantity of carbon and innovation plays a critical role in the development of these highly effective carbon sinks.”

The Ocean Solutions Accelerator developed by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance helps entrepreneurs launch a for-profit ocean solution for a sustainable blue economy by providing funding, mentorship, and other critical resources to scale their ventures and amplify their impact. To date, the Accelerator has assisted 45 world-leading ocean tech startups with $225 million in lifetime funding.

In another event, Investing in Ocean Innovators, co-convenor Barclays Private Bank and participants engaged with existing ocean investors to understand their approach and process to source, select, and support ocean innovators. Their insight is expected to encourage and enable current philanthropists and new investors to use their capital commercially to develop and scale these ventures.

Barclays also has partnered with the Blue Marine Foundation to advance conservation of the world’s ocean “through a three-year, five million pound partnership.”

“We will work in partnership with the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) to help them deliver their goal of ensuring that at least 30% of the global ocean is effectively protected and the other 70% sustainably managed by 2030,” the British bank said in a statement. “BLUE is dedicated to creating marine reserves, restoring vital habitats and establishing models of sustainable fishing. We share their vision of a healthy ocean forever, for everyone,” Barclays said.

A focus of attention during Monaco Ocean Week was the heavy and growing burden of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. With more than eight million tonnes of plastic entering the world’s ocean every year, plastic pollution
has become a global issue with a negative impact on marine biodiversity and a potential impact on human health.

One plastics session convened by the Solar Impulse Foundation featured CEO and cofounder Bertrand Piccard, who completed the first solar-powered flight around the world in July 2016.

To address sustainability challenges while enabling economic growth, Piccard and the Solar Impulse Foundation have identified 1000+ clean and profitable solutions. The Solar Impulse Foundation has organized these solutions into a search-engine for climate action – the Solutions Explorer – in order to support their implementation at scale. By giving political and economic decision-makers the tools to adopt much more ambitious energy and environmental policies, the Solar Impulse Foundation will help them to set a roadmap to reach their environmental objectives.

The session highlighted the work of some of most innovative companies committed to tackling this global issue and selected among the 1000+ clean and profitable solutions identified by the Solar Impulse Foundation to address the environmental crisis.

“Protection of the environment would become a reality only if it was perceived as economically viable and requiring no financial or behavioral sacrifices. Today, efficient solutions exist that can boost economic growth, while at the same time reducing our impact on the planet,” says Piccard.

UNESCO’s Ocean Decade Scientific Summary for Policymakers

A few days before the opening of Monaco Ocean Week, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) published a new Scientific Summary on Multiple Ocean Stressors for Policymakers,

offering information to better understand and manage the cumulative impacts of multiple ocean stressors.

The ocean is under stress from pressures at local, regional and global scales, such as global warming and acidification; ozone, plastic litter and atmospheric pollutants; as well as sedimentation, pollution and nutrient runoff.

The impact of multiple ocean stressors together and their interplay on marine life and ecosystem functions is not well understood, but it remains a central issue in developing solutions to monitor, protect, manage and restore ecosystems and their biodiversity under changing environmental, social and climate conditions, the report finds.

“The Ocean Decade stipulates multiple stressors as a key challenge for managing the ocean, in the future and already now. This SSPM aims to summarize the scientific knowledge, focus further research, and develop action strategies for addressing the complex impact of multiple ocean stressors on marine ecosystems, with a view of increasing resilience of the ocean and communities relying on its resources and services,” says Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of IOC-UNESCO.

The “Ocean Decade” seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyze new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. It builds on transformative science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and oceans.

Policymakers need to invest in innovative science solutions to navigate the complex interplay between these stressors and effectively address the resulting impacts, ensuring a sustainable future for an ocean currently in declining health.

With all of these facts and attitudes in mind, the Ocean Race, the ultimate ocean marathon, hosted a Monaco Ocean Week session Thursday, focused on the need to give the ocean a legal voice.

Workshop participants examined the merit of giving the ocean a voice and making it an international legal entity.

They addressed questions such as: could ocean rights help to shift perception of our one ocean from a resource to use and exploit to a vital, complex, system that fuels all life on Earth? And could a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, which sets out a comprehensive way of effectively governing the ocean, ensure it is properly protected?

Speakers included Ambassador Thomson, Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan, Michelle Bender from the Earth Law Centre, and Mumta Ito, founder of Nature’s Rights. Prince Albert attended the session.

The Monaco event follows the latest in a series of The Ocean Race Summits, held in the Seychelles earlier this week. The Summit series was developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race and Founding Partner of the Racing with Purpose sustainability program.

The whole series explores the idea of giving the ocean rights in order to create a collective global effort to protect the seas. The concept can only be realized if ocean rights are embraced at a global scale, which is why The Ocean Race is working to gather support and momentum with key decision-makers and ocean advocates. Through collaborative action The Ocean Race is building towards an ambitious goal of driving a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights.

Ahead of the Monaco session, The Ocean Race’s Relay4Nature initiative, developed with Ambassador Thomson, arrived at Monaco Ocean Week.

Symbolised by Nature’s Baton, Relay4Nature champions the ocean and calls on leaders to take urgent action to protect nature. Connecting the world’s key environmental events, Nature’s Baton was handed to Team Malizia’s skipper Boris Herrmann, one of the International Monohull Open Class Association teams registered to participate in the 2022-23 edition of The Ocean Race and a passionate ocean advocate.

“This is a race we must win,” Herrmann said as he held the baton in front of his home club, the Monaco Yacht Club. “We want to inspire ambitious climate actions through our sport.”

The baton arrived in Monaco after featuring at The Ocean Race Summit Seychelles, as part of its ongoing journey to landmark events where world leaders discuss the future of the planet.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, the renowned American oceanographer, research scientist and ocean health campaigner, took her opportunity with the baton to send a solemn and urgent plea. “My message to the leaders of the world – protect the ocean as if our very lives depend upon it, because they do.”

Race Chairman of The Ocean Race Richard Brisius said, “We believe that just as we have one ocean, we need one collaborative approach to protect it.”

“Our sailors are witnesses to the decline of the ocean – our racetrack – as a result of the lack of comprehensive rules. But recognizing the ocean’s rights could help to shift perception of how we treat it, from a resource to use and exploit, to a vital, complex, system that fuels all life on the planet,” Brisius said. “That was our goal here at Monaco Ocean Week, to gather experts and explore the idea of giving the ocean a voice and making it an international legal entity.”

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