Blue Innovation in the Commonwealth

By Patricia Scotland
Jan 23 2020 (IPS)

With 95 per cent of the ocean still unexplored by humans, we are
only just beginning to understand its profound influence on life on
earth, including its effect on global climate and

As we do so, more and more countries are exploring the immense
potential of the ‘blue economy’ to build wealth, create jobs
and improve lives, and how this can be done in ways which protect
ocean health and promote sustainability.

The value of ocean assets (including natural capital) is
conservatively estimated at US$24
, and the worldwide ocean economy is worth around
US$2.5 trillion per year. Yet all this is at risk with ocean
systems increasingly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate
change, habitat destruction, pollution and overfishing.

Diversification of traditional sectors such as shipping,
commercial fishing and ports to make them more sustainable can
unlock further opportunities for innovation which, alongside
emerging sectors such as offshore renewable energy, offer
attractive prospects for impact investors.

The nations of the Commonwealth are particularly rich in such
promising opportunities for innovation and investment. Of our 53
Commonwealth countries, 46 have a coastline, 24 are small island
developing states, and three border great lakes. More than a third
of the world’s national coastal waters and 42 per cent of all
coral reefs lie within Commonwealth jurisdictions.

The governments of these countries have come together and
adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter, through which they commit to
active cooperation on tackling ocean-related challenges and on
fulfilling pledges on sustainable ocean development. Through its
Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, championed by Kenya, the
Commonwealth family of nations is working together to identify good
practices, and to connect countries with partners that can help
accelerate and scale up such initiatives to make them more
attractive to investors.

Examples of innovative developments unfolding in Commonwealth
countries are:

Blue fashion:
The garment and accessory industries are among the most polluting
and wasteful in the world. There has been a surge of interest in
how their negative impact can be reduced through the use of marine
materials to develop bio-alternatives that are more sustainable and
which also add value.

In Kenya, for example, designers and manufacturers are excelling
in the US$50 billion African fashion industry, producing high
quality fish leather items made from discarded fish skin. To
showcase this, the Commonwealth recently worked with partners to
stage a ‘blue fashion show’ in Nairobi, and similar
international initiatives are being considered.

Blue bonds and debt swaps: Seychelles has
pioneered a number of innovative financing mechanisms, including a
‘debt swap’ programme, supported by the Nature Conservancy. The
project has seen US$30 million of Seychelles’ foreign debt
exchanged for commitments to ocean conservation programmes.

Seychelles also launched the world’s first sovereign ‘blue
bond’ last year, raising US$15 million from international
investors. Of this, US$3 million is earmarked for grants to support
blue economy development and climate change adaptation projects,
disbursed through the Seychelles Conservation and Climate
Adaptation Trust. The remaining US$12 million provides loans for
blue economy projects through the Seychelles Development Bank.

The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation supported
Seychelles in developing its strategic policy framework on the blue
economy for the period 2018 to 2030, termed the ‘Blue Economy
Roadmap’ and Commonwealth advisers continue to assist with

Alternatives to plastics: A growing number of
countries, including the UK and Vanuatu as co-champions of the
Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Marine Plastic Pollution,
have banned or are planning to ban various forms of single-use
plastics. Investment and research towards developing more
affordable and readily available sustainable alternatives will help
such initiatives to succeed and become adopted more widely.

Recognising this, the
Association of Commonwealth Universities
, through the
Blue Charter Fellowship
programme, is sponsoring research by a
scientist in Bangladesh on coconut husk cutlery as a substitute for
plastic knives and forks. The project includes market analysis and
development of policy options by which the government could
encourage adoption of the product.

Already, 48 emerging scientists have been awarded Blue Charter
fellowships at top Commonwealth universities to explore innovative
ways of tackling marine plastic pollution.

Such examples demonstrate how promising and practical
opportunities are already being developed. Substantial technical
support and financial backing within robust regulatory environments
are essential if there is to be the kind of far-reaching impact
that is really needed. To achieve this, it will be necessary for
countries to adopt ‘whole-of-government’ approaches to the blue
economy, embedding the concept in national development strategies,
and engaging all sectors rather than a single agency.

The Commonwealth and UNCTAD
on youth entrepreneurship in the blue and green economy
offers guidance for policymakers in formulating comprehensive
national strategies, with a focus on optimising the regulatory
environment and improving business skills.

Transition from traditional maritime economies to sustainable
blue economies takes time to achieve, but important groundwork is
already being laid. By working together in mutual support and
cooperation, Commonwealth countries are helping to accelerate
progress towards economic growth and prosperity which, through
imaginative and innovative approaches, is harmonised with
sustainable use and good stewardship of our ocean and its

To find out more about the Commonwealth Blue Charter, visit:

This piece was first published on

The post Blue
Innovation in the Commonwealth
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Patricia Scotland, is Secretary-General of the

New opportunities to invest in the ocean

The post Blue
Innovation in the Commonwealth
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Blue Innovation in the Commonwealth