We cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean, but the health of the ocean is now in clearly observable decline. It is folly to imagine that we can solve the global challenges posed by climate change by simply leaving the ocean alone. Of course, we need to allow ecosystems to recover and regenerate, but for reasons of food security and positive economic activity, we also need to provide tangible support for more sustainable ocean trade and production practices.
Major ocean industries contribute more than $ 1.9 trillion annually to the global economy. A new study from Duke University in the United States and the Stockholm Resilience Center in Sweden, titled “The Ocean 100”, shows that the top 100 transnational corporations account for 60% of this income. This study suggests that by working closely with these “backbone” companies, we could set new standards for how we manage our one shared ocean.
As a supporting member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, I agree. Our work has shown that targeted areas of ocean action could reduce the “emissions deficit” (the difference between expected emissions if current trends and policies continue and emissions consistent with limiting the increase in emissions. global temperature) by up to 21% on a path of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Thus, we urgently need to step up our efforts to ensure a transparent and science-based approach to solutions such as sustainable ocean-based food production, offshore wind energy, decarbonization of shipping, and conservation and conservation. restoration of wetlands, mangroves and seagrass beds. .
We know that largely through the development of sustainable mariculture, the ocean could produce up to six times more food than it currently does. We also know that the ocean could produce 40 times more renewable energy than today. Investing in these areas could both help mitigate global climate change and revolutionize the lives of millions of people for the better.
For too long, there has been a serious disconnect between our scientists, governments, and the large transnational corporations that dominate the ocean economy. Proper protection of our common ocean means changing the way governments, scientists, the private sector and citizens work together to achieve lasting results.
In his recent Reith Lectures, Dr Mark Carney, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, argued that we cannot achieve zero net carbon emissions without innovation, investment and the benefits provided by the market. But Dr Carney says the power of the market must be directed towards achieving what society values and he warns that very little tolerance remains for companies that “preach green but don’t manage their carbon footprint.”
In their study “The Ocean 100”, the authors argue that focusing on improving the management of a relatively small number of large companies, alongside ongoing regulatory efforts, could have a massive impact on the ocean economy. . This article is built around the idea that the largest companies in a given industry can operate similarly to key species in ecological communities, having a disproportionate effect on the structure and function of the ocean economy. .
A starting point for working with this powerful group of companies could be the success of the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative. Launched in 2016, SeaBOS has already used a science-based “keystone” approach with 10 of the world’s largest seafood companies to strengthen transparency and stewardship across the industry.
This represents a huge step forward in the history of seafood production, with major wild capture, aquaculture, and feed production companies jointly committed to scientific goals for ocean management.
The Ocean 100 document proposes a similar voluntary approach that could catalyze a common understanding of their role in the sustainable blue economy. Building common commitments to sustainable practices could then help define new industry standards that could spill over into all ocean industries.
On a related note, it is worth looking further into how the creation of a global ocean tax on just 0.1% of the revenues of the 100 largest transnational corporations in the ocean industry could pay off. $ 1.1 billion per year for investments in ocean conservation and blue economy development.
Improved legislation and increased consumer demand could also be combined with economic incentives from financial institutions to encourage these companies to integrate environmental and social responsibility into their operations.
Given that 60% of those 100 companies are already listed on the stock exchange, exchanges and shareholders should also play their part in upholding the responsibilities of ocean stewardship. Despite the challenges of dealing with such a diverse, complex and sometimes opaque group of companies, none are exempt. The world demands more action from all on sustainability.
The chaos caused by the novel coronavirus has brought back the fragility and resilience of humanity and the natural environment on which we all depend. For the United Nations, 2020 had been called a “super year” for the environment, but the pandemic has intervened, and now it is 2021 which could prove to be our turning point on both climate change and stopping declining ocean health.
This year marks the start of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, designed to give us the science we need for the ocean we want. At the same time, we are now engaged in preparations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in November – the time and place for humanity to call for an end to our war on nature in agreeing on the necessary controls on the levels of our greenhouse gas emissions.
To address global challenges such as climate change, we need to change our outdated perception of the ocean as a passive and often distant victim of human activities. Everything is connected and we all need to recognize our roles and responsibilities as leaders, employees, citizens and consumers.
We live in a time when we have finally learned the extent of the damage we have caused to nature and to the health of the ocean. We should now look to Ocean 100 companies to help play a major role in fixing our habits.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.