Blue acceleration: An ocean of risk and opportunities

Oct 20, 2021
  • Description

The prospect of a new era of blue growth poses unprecedented sustainability and governance challenges for the ocean, as marine ecosystems face cumulative pressures from local human impacts, global climate change and distal socioeconomic drivers. Driven by increasing consumption patterns, land-based sources decline, and technological progress, the hopes and expectations for the ocean as an engine of future human development are increasing and have become ubiquitous. Consequently, the prospect of a new era of blue growth is increasingly finding its way into policy documents and depicting the marine realm as the next economic frontier, resulting in considerable investments and the emergence of new ocean-based industries with a diversity of interests. This new phase in humanity's use of the ocean, dubbed the "Blue Acceleration", exhibits a phenomenal rate of change over the last 30 years, with a sharp acceleration characterising the onset of the 21st century, in stark contrast to the slow pace at which new policy is being developed. With two-thirds of the ocean lying beyond national jurisdiction and a fragmented ocean governance landscape, this poses great challenges and calls for a rapid transformation towards improved sustainability. But this scramble for the seas also poses issues of equity and benefit sharing: if there is a rush for the ocean, then who is winning? And who is being left behind?

Through a synthesis of peer-reviewed and grey literature, empirical data, and case studies from small island developing states (SIDS) and coastal least developed countries (LDCs), this report describes how issues of equity and benefit sharing are playing out in the Blue Acceleration, highlights how SIDS and LDCs are at particular risk to stranded assets, and explores the role that finance, public or private, can play in assisting transformation towards an equitable and sustainable Blue economy. 

Additional reports in this series are Ocean Risks in SIDS and LDCs and Gender dynamics of ocean risk and resilience in SIDS and coastal LDCs.