The FAO joined together with a host of organizations to produce a comprehensive report on a marine and coastal ecosystems approach to the green economy, entitled The Green Economy in a Blue World. Others involved were UN agencies including UNDP, UNEP, IMO and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, along with Swiss-based IUCN and research entities such as the World Fish Center and GRID-Arendal. This kind of collaboration among numerous organizations is characteristic of the cross-fertilization that is needed for informed global policy debates. See the report here. The report points out the crisis in fish stocks, with 30 percent of all fish stocks being overexploited and another 50 percent being fully exploited, a situation that has been recognized in the negotiations on WTO disciplines involving fisheries subsidies. There is a “Friends of Fish” cluster of Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Pakistan, Peru and the United States at the WTO that has asserted that certain fisheries subsidies are contributing to this overcapacity and overfishing, Many developing countries, as well as Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei have disagreed with this perspective but have also argued for flexibilities in granting subsidies. The new report strengthens the arguments in favor of sustainable fishing strategies and also includes an in-depth analysis of the growing aquaculture industry. We think this is an area where new negotiating approaches at the WTO may benefit from the discussions on the role of the “green economy” in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication at the Rio+20 Summit, to be held on 20 to 22 June 2012.
The report also describes the potential for a “tide of economic and social benefits” from green investments in other aspects of the marine and coastal ecosystems. For one, it is still the case that the overwhelming proportion (90 percent) of transport in world commerce is maritime shipping, and this remains the most efficient way of transporting bulk goods. The report describes how the shipping industry is introducing improvements in its environmental impact, including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Many other maritime or coastal developments are also promising avenues for deriving economic and social benefits from green investments, including coastal tourism, renewable energy in wind, wave or tidal developments and even deep sea mineral exploitation. And finally, there is also a link between the nutrient pollution of nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff and untreated sewage, on the one hand, and opportunities for better management of nutrient management in agriculture and stricter regulation of wastewater and manure, on the other, that can also increase jobs and sustainable economic growth.