On World Oceans Day, leaders from government and civil society issued a call to pay special attention to the world’s oceans as the world bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic. With a substantial portion of the global economy paused by shutdowns, companies and regulators alike see the potential for reshaping commerce with an eye towards sustainability.
Citing plastic pollution, warming waters, sea level rise and ocean acidification, UN Secretary-General António Guterres used World Oceans Day as an opportunity to call on society to improve upon the way it interacts with the sea.
“As we work to end the pandemic and build back better, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity – and responsibility – to correct our relationship with the natural world, including the world’s seas and oceans,” said Guterres. “On this World Oceans Day, we focus on Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean. Better understanding of the oceans is essential for conserving fish stocks and discovering new products and medicines . . . I urge governments and all stakeholders to commit to the conservation and sustainability of the oceans through innovation and science.”
In a joint statement, the leaders of Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Norway, Indonesia, Mexico, Portugal and six other nations called for all nations to place value on ocean resources during the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. “In a sustainable ocean economy, effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand-in-hand. Investing in a sustainable ocean economy is an excellent deal: it has considerable benefits for the global economy, the ocean and societal well-being,” the members of the intergovernmental High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy wrote.
The Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC) – an initiative formed by the High Level Panel and led by major players in offshore wind – announced Monday that it aims to install 1,400 GW of offshore wind by 2050. According to the coalition, 1,400 GW of offshore wind could provide one-tenth of global electricity demand, save over three billion tonnes of CO2 per year and create around 24 million person-years of employment by 2050. The goal is exceptionally ambitious, as the world total for offshore wind capacity currently stands at about 30 GW.
“In a short period of time, offshore wind has become an incredibly competitive solution for clean power generation across the world, with impressive cost reduction driving the industry’s growth by over 30 per cent in the past decade and now outcompeting alternative fuels such as coal,” said Benj Sykes, the head of external affairs for Ørsted. “Working alongside other technologies such as renewable hydrogen could further bolster offshore wind’s ability to power economies across the world sustainably and at a low cost.”
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