The European Commission proposes a new approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU for industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts. A sustainable blue economy is essential to achieve the goals of the European Green Agreement and ensuring a green and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.
Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “Healthy oceans are a prerequisite for a thriving blue economy. Pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction, coupled with the effects of the climate crisis, all threaten the rich marine biodiversity on which the blue economy depends. We must change course and develop a sustainable blue economy where environmental protection and economic activities go hand in hand.
Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “The pandemic has hit sectors of the maritime economy in different but profound ways. We have the opportunity to start from scratch and we want to ensure that the recovery shifts the focus from simple exploitation to sustainability and resilience. So to be really green, you also have to think blue.
All sectors of the blue economy, including fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, maritime transport, port activities and shipbuilding, will need to reduce their environmental and climate impact. Tackling climate and biodiversity crises requires healthy seas and the sustainable use of their resources to create alternatives to fossil fuels and traditional food production.
The transition to a sustainable blue economy requires investing in innovative technologies. Wave and tidal energy, the production of algae, the development of innovative fishing gear or the restoration of marine ecosystems will create new jobs and green businesses in the blue economy.
the Communication defines a detailed program for the blue economy in order to:
- Achieve climate neutrality and zero pollution objectives in particular by developing offshore renewable energies, decarbonizing maritime transport and greening ports. A sustainable ocean energy mix comprising floating wind, thermal, wave and tidal energy could generate a quarter of the EU’s electricity by 2050. Ports are essential for the connectivity and economy of European regions and countries and could be used as energy poles.
- Switch to a circular economy and reduce pollution – including through renewed standards for the design of fishing gear, for the recycling of vessels and for the decommissioning of offshore platforms and measures to reduce pollution from plastics and microplastics.
- Preserving biodiversity and investing in nature – protecting 30% of the EU’s maritime area will reverse biodiversity loss, increase fish stocks, contribute to climate mitigation and resilience and generate significant financial and social benefits. The environmental impacts of fishing on marine habitats will be further minimized.
- Support climate adaptation and coastal resilience – adaptation activities, such as the development of green infrastructure in coastal areas and the protection of coastlines against the risks of erosion and flooding, will help to preserve biodiversity and landscapes, while benefiting tourism and to the coastal economy.
- Ensuring sustainable food production – sustainable production and new marketing standards for seafood, the use of seaweed and seagrass, stricter control of fishing as well as research and innovation in seafood products cell base will help preserve European seas. With the EU strategic guidelines for sustainable aquaculture now also adopted, the Commission is also committed to developing sustainable aquaculture in the EU.
- Improve space management at sea – the new Blue Forum for users of the sea to coordinate a dialogue between offshore operators, stakeholders and scientists engaged in fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transport, tourism, renewable energies and other activities stimulate cooperative exchanges for the sustainable use of the marine environment. A report on the implementation of the EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive will be published in 2022, following the adoption of the National Maritime Spatial Plans in March 2021.
The Commission will also continue to create the conditions for a sustainable blue economy internationally, in line with the international ocean governance agenda.
Financing the sustainable blue economy
The European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group, made up of the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund (EIF), will strengthen their cooperation for a sustainable blue economy. The institutions will work together with Member States to meet existing funding needs to reduce pollution in European seas and support investments in blue innovation and the blue bioeconomy.
The new European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund – in particular with its ‘BlueInvest platform and the new one BlueInvest funds – will support the transition towards more sustainable value chains based on oceans, seas and coastal activities. To further fund the transformation, the Commission urged Member States to include investments for a sustainable blue economy in their national resilience and recovery plans as well as their national operational programs for various EU funds by 2027. D Other EU programs such as the Horizon Europe research program will also contribute and a dedicated mission on oceans and waters will be set up.
Regarding private investments, agreed ocean-specific sustainability principles and standards, such as the EU-sponsored project Sustainable blue economy financing initiative should be used in relevant investment decisions.
The European Union’s blue economy encompasses all industries and sectors related to the oceans, seas and coasts, whether based directly in the marine environment (e.g. shipping, seafood , power generation) or on land (e.g. ports, shipyards, coastal infrastructure). Whichever is most recent Blue economy report, the traditional sectors of the blue economy provide 4.5 million direct jobs and generate more than 650 billion euros in turnover.