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29 March 2023: A shared G20 vision for the ocean commons

Context: In the backdrop of India’s presidency in the G20, the scope of the blue economy reemerged and would play a crucial role in future economic decision-making.
Background: The oceans hold immense opportunities for the prosperity of our planet. It is therefore not surprising that the most prosperous cities and countries are endowed with coasts. The G20 countries together share about 45% of the world’s coastline and more than 21% of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

Resources of the Oceans

Oceans are reservoirs of global biodiversity, important regulators of global weather and climate, and support the economic well-being of billions of people in coastal regions.
The term ‘blue economy’ includes not only ocean-dependent economic development but also inclusive social development and environmental and ecological security.
Recognizing the contribution of the ocean economy to sustainable development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “For me, the blue circle in the flag of India… represents the potential of the ocean economy.”

Initiatives taken by the government in the development of the blue economy

The government of India has taken bold initiatives to promote the development of the blue economy.
The Sagarmala initiative promotes port-led development. Shipbuilding Financial Assistance The policy encourages domestic shipbuilding.
Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana is actively generating the Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of the fisheries sector.
The Sagar Manthan dashboard tracks shipments in real-time.
The Deep Ocean Mission explores the deep ocean resources in the EEZ and continental shelf as well as the development of technology for their exploitation.
India adopted the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification to classify and better manage coastal zones and protect ecologically sensitive coastal and marine areas, including ecosystems.
As the host of World Environment Day in 2018, Mr Modi called for an end to single-use plastics. In 2022, the global community will come together for a multilateral treaty on addressing plastic pollution.
In the same year, India introduced an amendment to the Plastic Waste Management Rules banning select single-use plastic items and introduced policies for expanded producer responsibility in waste management to combat plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

India’s G20 Presidency and Blue Economy: The Two-Way Path

From this position of strength, as part of India’s G20 Presidency, the blue economy has been articulated as a key priority area under the Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group.
It aims to promote the adoption of high-level principles that guide sustainable and equitable economic development through the sea and its resources, as well as address climate change and other environmental challenges.
This approach is in line with Mr. Modi’s call for global adoption of “Lifestyle for Environment,” which promotes conscious usage over mindless consumption patterns.

The blue economy is discussed on the G20 platform.

Over the past decade, the G20 Forum has discussed some specific ocean-related issues.
These include the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter, the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, and the Coral Research and Development Accelerator Platform.
Last year, an overall discussion on the blue economy was launched at the Ocean 20 launch in Bali.
India’s commitment to prioritizing oceans and the blue economy under its chairmanship will ensure continued discussion on this important topic and pave the way for future G20 chairs.

Threats to the concept of blue economies

However, we must also acknowledge that ambitious efforts by countries to expand their blue economies are being threatened by extreme weather events, ocean acidification, and sea level rise.
Increasing marine pollution, overexploitation of resources, and unplanned urbanization also pose significant threats to ocean, coastal, and marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
The inherent interconnectedness of the oceans means that activities in one part of the world can have ripple effects around the world.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of all countries to ensure their conservation, protection, and sustainable use.
As the blue economy involves many stakeholders and affects many other sectors of the national economy, effective and efficient ocean and blue economy governance also presents a significant challenge.

Importance of India in current challenges and threats to the blue economy

In this context, India’s G20 Presidency will play an important role in promoting individual and collective action to facilitate the transition towards a sustainable blue economy.
The G20 comprises a diverse group of countries with varying national circumstances. Several G20 members have released their strategies for the development and/or expansion of their blue economies.
The platform presents an excellent opportunity to create effective communication to share best practices with all stakeholders, promote collaboration for advancements in science and technology, foster public-private partnerships, and create novel blue-sky finance mechanisms.
The outcomes of this forum should further inform other international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, etc. that are related to each other.
Stewarding the oceans is an investment that will last for generations. The spirit of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’ should unite the global community for the welfare of our oceans.