World Ocean Summit Insight Hour

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The post-coronavirus ocean economy:  where do we go from here?

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts global output to contract by 2.5% this year—a worse result than during the global financial crisis. Meanwhile, the World Trade Organisation expects global trade to fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as covid-19 disrupts supply chains, economic activity and life around the world. The effects on the ocean economy are profound.

The pandemic has disrupted key ocean industries such as shipping, fisheries and tourism. Around 90% of the world’s cargo moves by sea. Fish provide essential protein for around 1bn people. With billions of people around the globe in lockdown, tourism has come to a halt.

The pandemic also threatens to slow progress in other areas that are vital for building a sustainable ocean economy, such as blue finance and investment in ocean energy projects, shipping decarbonisation and aquaculture, as policy priorities shift towards healthcare and welfare.

However, policymakers and business leaders are increasingly focusing on the post-coronavirus recovery and how to set the economy on a sustainable footing. EU leaders, for example, have called for the post-pandemic recovery plan to include the continent’s “green transition”, and the European Commission is pressing ahead with its renewed sustainable finance strategy. Meanwhile, in the US, a “green stimulus” package has been promoted by activists and academics. The extent to which the ocean economy will benefit from such fiscal stimulus remains unclear at this stage. Economies and businesses will be eager to return to growth as soon as restrictions ease. There are concerns that the opportunities to accelerate the blue transition as the virus recedes may well not materialise.

  • How is the pandemic affecting plans to build a sustainable ocean economy?
  • Will the global economy return to “business as usual” when pandemic-related restrictions ease? What would this mean for the long-term transition to a sustainable ocean economy?
  • How can ocean stakeholders restore momentum in advancing the blue economy?