SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 - Page 9

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: BLUE ECONOMY New tools One of the potential tools to support a sustainable blue economy is marine spatial planning (MSP). This provides a more strategic approach to how marine spaces and resources are used by different activities. It also recognises marine space isn’t just the surface – it’s the water body, the seabed and, sometimes, it’s below the seabed. “It could also be the air above the sea,” Professor Fletcher explains. A sustainable blue economy has financial value, but it also has social and cultural capital. Portsmouth itself offers a wealth of examples – from the value of locally caught fish to the restaurant trade to the health benefits of living by the sea, through to the national security asset of the UK’s key naval port. “And you can’t discount the value of people simply being able to stroll along the beach on a sunny day,” Professor Fletcher says. His research is about enabling these eclectic values to be understood and assembled into a holistic decision-making system. At this point of our voyage, we’re still wading in the shallows. The next challenge is to step into the deep, dark cold. There are areas of the ocean that are not owned, managed or controlled by any country. Beyond the 200 nautical mile zones that fall under national jurisdictions are the high seas, which for Professor Fletcher are the “last great wilderness on Earth”. This is a vast, 3D space, rich in biodiversity, and he says the big questions to answer are how to conserve and sustainably use the deep ocean’s resources. Management imperative Because of the deep sea’s status as a marine no-man’s land, Professor Fletcher says there is global concern that these areas are already being used and abused in a way that is creating an unsustainable future for the ocean. “The UN is increasingly worried about the biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” he says. Professor Fletcher’s work is contributing to an ongoing UN legal process to supplement the Law of the Sea to better protect the deep ocean. He is contributing to a wholescale redesign of the infrastructure required to manage areas that lie beyond national jurisdiction. “Right now, we can identify areas that are important ecologically, but we can’t legally designate or protect these areas. There’s no way to protect against overexploitation, pollution, mining, or any other activities. So we are designing a whole new governance system.” If a new, legally binding international instrument is agreed, it will represent a step change in the way the ocean is conserved. For many observers it is a big ‘if’, but Professor Fletcher believes the signs are promising, and more countries are coming to some consensus around what should be in this instrument. Ocean literacy As a scientist, an adviser to the UN and a science communicator, Professor Fletcher says that if you want people to listen and act, an effort has to be made to help them to understand and – in his words – acquire “ocean literacy”. “Ocean literacy means working with individuals or groups to achieve changes that will deliver sustainability policies … such as reducing the amount of single-use plastic, encouraging different waste disposal practices, or making different food choices,” he says. This is where science is crucial. “Research helps us to understand the implications of people’s lifestyle choices on ocean resources, what we do with waste being one example. There must be few people in Britain today who are not aware of the threat single-use plastic poses to our ocean. Ocean literacy seeks to turn this awareness into real change.” 390 MILLION TONNES In 2012 carbon emissions from plastic production and after use were 390 million tonnes of CO 2 . SOURCE: ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION 15% Greenhouse gas emissions by the plastics sector will account for 15% of the available global carbon budget by 2050 (up from 1% today) if we are to keep global warming below 2 degrees by 2100. SOURCE: ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION ISSUE 1 / 2020 9