Green transition impossible without ‘blue economy’, says EU – EURACTIV.com
The transition to a greener and more sustainable economy will be impossible without the support of industries based around the ocean and coasts – known as the blue economy – according to the European Commission.
“There can be no Green Deal without a sustainable blue economy. They are deeply interconnected, ”EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said during a EURACTIV debate last week.
“The blue economy is a very dynamic sector and full of potential for innovation, which is essential for such a transformation to take place,” added Sinkevičius, responsible for the environment, oceans and fisheries at the European Commission.
The Lithuanian politician highlighted different areas of the blue economy that can contribute to the achievement of the EU’s Green Deal, citing sustainable fishing practices, recycling disused offshore platforms and, vitally, l ocean energy.
“In twenty years, ocean energy will power most of the EU,” Sinkevičius said. “We have already put in place the plans that will quintuple offshore wind power over the next 10 years. It’s not just the vision, it’s already happening. And we will increase to 25 times the current capacity by 2050. “
The ocean holds great potential for the production of renewable energy, including wind and tidal power. There are now floating wind turbine projects, making it possible to use energy in deeper waters. These could become commercially viable by 2030.
The European Commission estimates that 3 to 4% of maritime space will be needed for this renewable technology, according to Bernhard Friess, director of maritime policy and the blue economy, at the maritime branch of the executive.
“It is, of course, not easy in a congested maritime space, as we have in the North Sea, in the western Baltic waters, in particular, also in the Mediterranean, where there is navigation, fishing and many have to be very careful not to harm sensitive and environmentally sensitive areas, ”Sinkevičius said.
The blue economy is a large and complex ecosystem, with a turnover of over 650 billion euros, which provides almost 5 million direct jobs for EU citizens.
Traditional sectors, like fishing and tourism, could lose out if new technologies like renewable energies are not implemented carefully. These industries have already been hit hard by COVID-19, as lockdowns and travel restrictions have closed hotels and restaurants.
Already, Europe is starting to see tensions between traditional coastal economies and the development of renewable energies. In France, for example, fishermen have complained that offshore wind farm projects have an impact on their fishing grounds.
Spatial planning is essential for the coexistence and efficient use of space, said Tove Lunde, security manager for new energy solutions at Equinor, the Norwegian energy company.
“Very early on, we try to determine who our stakeholders are and, of course, to understand what the potential impact of a development is. This will be a very important part of the development of a project and then of the authorization and consent process following accepted industry standards and protocols, ”she said.
EU countries are in the process of creating maritime spatial plans to determine how best to use maritime space.
“We will use our maritime space rationally and efficiently to make room for all economic activities as well as the protection of marine life and habitats,” said Sinkevičius.
“And we will play a leading role on the world stage, not only in terms of land use planning, but also in terms of sustainable fishing, aquaculture, plastic pollution, etc.”
To bring together all interests and move the discussions forward, the Commission will propose the creation of a “blue forum” on 12 May
> Watch the full video of the EURACTIV event below
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]