As the IPBN's Blue Economy Conference on September 30 approaches, we are taking the opportunity to give a birds-eye view of what challenges the sector is facing as well as the success stories it has enjoyed. Recent reports posted on various private and public-sector websites and news outlets have given us some insight into where the EU stands and how Ireland and Portugal are faring in its wake.
Suffice it to say, the Blue Economy has huge potential when it comes to green recovery, and Portugal is continuing to proudly lead the front while Ireland is pitching in, in its own right.
According to ec.europa.eu, the European Commission has just published “The EU Blue Economy Report 2020,” giving us a glimpse at how the EU's economic sectors have performed when it comes to oceans and the coastal environment. To summarize the report, the €750 billion turned over in 2018 classifies the EU blue economy in good standing with a whopping 5 million people working in the sector— an 11.6% increase from 2017. To wit, jobs in the offshore wind energy sector have multiplied by nine in less than ten years.
The report also shows that the EU is indeed a world leader in ocean energy technology, as it is on track to produce up to 35% of its electricity from offshore sources by 2050, despite obvious setbacks due to Coronavirus. The ec.eu website went on to say, “With a decrease of 29% of CO² per unit of gross value added between 2009 and 2017, fisheries and aquaculture growth is firmly decoupled from greenhouse gas production. Moreover, the report stresses the correlation between sustainable fishing and positive economic performance.”
In a statement, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Maritime renewable energy, food from the sea, sustainable coastal and maritime tourism, the blue bio-economy and many other activities constituting the blue economy will help us come out of this crisis stronger, healthier, more resilient, and more sustainable.”
According to the Whitaker Institute’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) report on Ireland's Ocean Economy written with the aid of the Our Ocean Wealth Summit and the Government’s Annual Review of its Integrated Marine Plan: Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, things are on track across the thirteen marine-related industries in Ireland. The Whitaker Institute reports that "Ireland’s ocean economy has a turnover of €6.2 billion, with a direct economic contribution, as measured by GVA, of €2.2 billion or 1.1% of GDP. Taking into account indirect GVA generated from ocean-related activity in Ireland, the total GVA is €4.2bn, representing 2% of the GDP." The co-author of the report, Dr. Stephen Hynes said that “the latest figures indicate that Ireland’s ocean economy continues to see growth across both established and emerging marine industries. We expect the Government’s 2020 target will be exceeded next year, and the gap is narrowing in terms of the Government’s ambitious 2030 target.”
Ireland's own Marine Ireland Industry Network announced on August 30 that the Cork-based offshore wind energy developer Simply Blue received a €15m investment from the UK-listed Octopus Renewables Infrastructure, which gave the company a 24% stake in the Irish group. One can only assume this cash injection will help take Ireland to the next level in protecting and serving its own blue economy. The Simply Blue firm "helps to develop floating offshore wind projects and has a pipeline of more than nine gigawatts of assets it’s currently working on. Those projects are primarily based in Irish and UK waters," the publication writes. In a joint venture with French energy giant TotalEnergie called Blue Gem Wind, Simply Blue is developing a floating offshore wind portfolio in the Celtic Sea near Wales and the Emerald Floating Wind Project off Kinsale in Co Cork.
Meanwhile, Portugal was among the first countries in the world to set 2050 carbon neutrality goals detailed in its National Energy & Climate Plan (PNEC 2030). So far the country is on track to deliver 47% of renewable energy use and a 35% reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels, by 2030. With the recent €45m investment from the European SCalable Offshore Renewable Energy Sources (EU SCORES), this target is becoming even more achievable. The investment opened the doors to the world’s first hybrid offshore energy park project, set to be located off the coast of Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal, according to Corpower Ocean. The investment will further support the nation’s Industrial Strategy for Ocean Renewable Energies, designed to create a competitive and innovative industrial export cluster for ocean renewable energy.
Ministry of the Sea, Portugal from 2014 - 2019, Ana Paula Vitorino wrote in a recent article on the UN.org website, “For historical, cultural and economic reasons, the ocean has shaped the lives of the Portuguese people…As a maritime country, the ocean is a fundamental and formative element of our identity. In support of the objective to promote and strengthen the global governance of the oceans based on a holistic and collaborative approach, the Government of Portugal created, in 2015, the Ministry of the Sea, responsible for the coordination of maritime affairs, the promotion of a sustainable ocean economy, and the formation and monitoring of ocean policies based on scientific knowledge, innovation, and technological development."
According to Vitorino, Portugal is committed to updating the 1994 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to better find solutions to issues that go beyond its own national borders like ocean acidification, marine pollution, the depletion of fish stocks, and marine ecosystem degradation. She says, “The new agreement should reflect the best science available, and the decision-making processes set out in the agreement should incorporate this concern. We should recognize the contribution that such an agreement can and should make to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda, which deals with oceans, and to halting and reversing the decline in ocean health.”