The European Commission is calling for a new approach in developing a sustainable blue economy, telling all member states that they need to develop plans in 2021 addressing the maritime sector. The EC said that a sustainable blue economy is essential to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal and ensuring a green and inclusive recovery from the pandemic. They are calling for developing offshore renewable energy, decarbonizing maritime transport, and greening ports, while the Commission said it will increase its efforts on pollution including possibly further tightening the restrictions on ship recycling and plastics entering the maritime environment.
“Healthy oceans are a precondition for a thriving blue economy. Pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction, coupled with the effects of the climate crisis, all threaten the rich marine biodiversity that the blue economy depends on,” said Frans Timmermans, a Dutch politician who serves as Vice President of the EC and Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal. “We must change tack and develop a sustainable blue economy where environmental protection and economic activities go hand in hand.”
All blue economy sectors, including fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, maritime transport, port activities, and shipbuilding, will have to reduce their environmental and climate impact the EC said in announcing its new Maritime Spatial Planning Directive. Transitioning to a sustainable blue economy the EC said requires investing in innovative technologies. Wave- and tidal energy, algae production, development of innovative fishing gear, or restoration of marine ecosystems will create new green jobs and businesses in the blue economy.
The Commission sets out a detailed agenda for the blue economy to achieve the objectives of climate neutrality and zero pollution. It calls for a switch to a circular economy to support a reduction in pollution by preserving biodiversity and investing in nature.
To support improved management of space at sea the EC is establishing the new Blue Forum for users of the sea to coordinate a dialogue between offshore operators, stakeholders, and scientists engaged in fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, renewable energy, and other maritime-related activities. The European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group, composed of the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund will increase their cooperation on a sustainable blue economy, meeting and working with member states to support investment for blue innovation and blue bioeconomy. A new European Maritime, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Fund – especially with its ‘BlueInvest’ platform and the new BlueInvest Fund – will also support the transition.
While the EC is pushing member states to do more to support the blue economy and support the drive to achieve decarbonization, the EC said it will also focus on shipbuilding and also ship recycling. They are specifically planning to review the standards of recycling and looking at expanding it to cover more elements including the decommissioning of offshore oil rigs as the focus moves to sustainable energy and the oil and gas sector is de-emphasized.
The EC is looking at developing binding targets on everything from support the preservation of fishing areas to reducing plastics and microplastics pollution and carbon capture and storage. A report on the implementation of the EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning will be issued in 2022, following the adoption of national maritime spatial plans.