[Event Report] A webinar was held to discuss possibilities for a robust ‘blue’ recovery in Asia and the Pacific (detailed)


n Thursday, 23 July 2020, the webinar “Ensuring a robust ‘blue’ recovery in Asia and the Pacific” was organized as a part of the World Ocean Summit Insight Hour webinar series, jointly organized by the Ocean Policy Research Institute of The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, The Nippon Foundation, and the Economist Group. The webinar was organized to commemorate Japan’s Marine Day national holiday and to promote international dialogues with world leaders on the challenges many countries around the world face in supporting and reviving their ocean economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers explored what opportunities were offered by the economic pause to ignite a sustainable blue recovery and bolster policies for a sustainable ocean in Asia and the Pacific, and how these could be practically realized.

Mr. Charles Goddard, Asia Pacific Editor of The Economist, presented the overall objective of the webinar series and the 1st webinar by underlining the need to fill the gap in high level ocean policy dialogues and the potential for facilitating economic recovery through a sustainable ocean based economy or blue economy, referred to as a “blue recovery.” Dr Atsushi Sunami, President of The Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) and President of the Ocean Policy Research Institute of SPF, underlined the fact that the international community faces mounting ocean risks and that their impacts are now coupled with the COVID-19 calamity; he also emphasized the merits of capitalizing upon the potential of a blue economy as a way to facilitate socio-economic recovery amidst COVID-19. He pointed out that the new normal would require transformation, innovation, cooperation, and partnerships, and that they would be key for an ocean-based economy or blue economy to trigger a blue recovery. He emphasized that it is vital to promote international cooperation to aggregate wisdom for conserving and sustainably using our ocean, for our present and for future generations.

(left) Mr. Charles Goddard, Asia Pacific Editor The Economist, (right) Dr. Atsushi Sunami, President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation/President, Ocean Policy Research Institute of SPF.

(left) Mr. Charles Goddard, Asia Pacific Editor The Economist, (right) Dr. Atsushi Sunami, President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation/President, Ocean Policy Research Institute of SPF.

Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation, stated that the world faces grave threats to its survival today not only from the COVID-19 pandemic but also from the vexed state of mother ocean, who supports all life on planet Earth, due to the disordered use of the ocean by humans. He pointed out that global warming, ocean acidification, depletion of fishing resources, and millions of tons of plastic debris are threatening our oceans. He emphasized the need to address the plight of the ocean from long-term perspectives. Mr. Sasakawa stated that the Nippon Foundation has long grappled with the ocean crisis based on its founding principle, “One world, one family,” by carrying out activities that cut across politics, philosophy, religion, ethnicity, and national borders. He underlined, that, just as we are supported by the ocean, we must bolster efforts to protect the ocean around the world.
In response to Mr. Goddard, Mr Sasakawa emphasized the need to tackle diverse and complex challenges and promote innovative and collective actions across all sectors to deliver concrete solutions. He said that, for example, digitalization in the ocean sector could bring out dynamic changes in traditional logistics, fishing, navigation safety, ocean observation, information and communication, and maritime security. Mr Sasakawa advocated that the world and business leaders and the international community should take actions to meet head-on the prevailing threats to the ocean.
H.E. Mr. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President, Republic of Palau stated that Palau, still free from COVID-19 infections, is suffering heavy economic damage due to the suspension of tourism. Speaking of the ocean, he emphasized that the ocean faces growing crises, including marine plastic debris and marine environmental degradation. He recalled Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary Act, enacted in 2015 and revised in 2019, which created its large-scale marine protected areas. He said that its implementation was facilitated by the support of Chairman Sasakawa and The Nippon Foundation, to strengthen the capacity of the coastguard and marine surveillance. President Remengesau expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Abe of Japan for providing support for Palau’s efforts to promote a sustainable blue economy, such as those aimed at promoting capacity development for the seafood sector and coastal ecosystem conservation that he considers vital to building sustainable and resilient communities in Palau.
President Remengesau responded to Mr. Goddard, stating that there are many opportunities to support marine environment conservation and restoration and build back bluer. He said that the value of such investment could be 5-fold. However, small islands need new partnerships to turn opportunities into actions to promote marine environment conservation and tackle climate change amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that Palau will continue to work with partners for the forthcoming Our Ocean Conference in December 2020 in Palau to reinforce international partnership for achieving sustainable development goals. President Remengesau also considers the UNFCCC/COP26 as a milestone meeting to capitalize upon the potential of renewable energy and blue carbon as climate change actions.
(left) Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation, (right) H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President, Republic of Palau.

(left) Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation, (right) H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President, Republic of Palau.

Ms. Armida Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary, UNESCAP, stated that the ocean is fragile and susceptible to anthropogenic impacts. She said that it is vital to use data, statistics and ocean accounts for conserving the marine environment. She pointed out that there is a significant knowledge gap in SDG14, particularly in fisheries and the high seas. She also referred to the divides of ocean economies among countries, and highlighted a need to assist developing countries in capitalizing upon sustainable blue economy potentials. She asserted that 40% of marine plastic debris is produced by the Asia–Pacific region and emphasized a need to explore solutions by measures such as providing incentives for businesses to change their business models. Ms. Alisjahbana also called for enhanced regional and sub-regional cooperation in areas such as smart technology and circular economies as a way to resolve ocean risks and challenges.
Following up the remarks of President Remengesau, Ms. Alisjahbana stated that the Asia-pacific region releases 50% of the global greenhouse gases emissions, and thus solutions are desirable; also, its surrounding ocean is affected by climate change. For these reasons, she said that regional and sub-regional cooperation need to be further strengthened. She also said that UNESCAP works with ASEAN on marine plastic debris, land use mapping, and planning. She emphasized that science is very important to promote innovation and data collection, and that sharing and application are important steps to promote regional cooperation. She asserted that there is a need to reinforce social norms that encourage people to pursue a healthy and environmentally sound lifestyle. Ms. Alisjahbana emphasized that it is vital to identify common interests and develop partnerships.
Mr Tatsuhiko Kashimura, Managing Director, Refinverse, Inc., introduced the business model of his company, which promotes the recycling of used fishing nets. He referred to an estimate that 9 million tons of plastic wastes are generated in Japan annually, and 20 – 30 thousand tons of plastic wastes flow into the ocean, particularly during natural disasters such as typhoons. He said that fishing net recycling does not just reduce debris, but also helps the fishery sector to become more sustainable and accountable. An Italian textile company now uses materials from recycled fishing nets to produce clothes and shoes. The recycling business has developed in different sectors and it is expected that the fishing net recycling business will do the same. Mr. Kashimura said that his company operates on a small scale in recycling fishing nets, but he expressed his hope that the operation could be expanded to have more on-site collaboration and to create job opportunities with the local fishery sector and stakeholders, and be replicated internationally.

(left) Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), (right) Mr. Tatsuhiko Kashimura, Managing Director, Refin
(left) Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), (right) Mr. Tatsuhiko Kashimura, Managing Director, Refinverse, Inc..

Dr Sunami recalled that the Lehman shock in 2008 prompted a movement for a “green recovery,” and suggested that public-private partnerships are important in this respect. Likewise, he considers innovation as an engine for a blue recovery. He said that science, technology, and innovation must be promoted. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development spearheaded by UNESCO provides a useful impetus. Blue Finance is also indispensable, and it is important to gear finance in ocean sectors towards addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. He said that OPRI works, for instance, with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Stimson Center to promote blue finance and insurance schemes conducive to a blue recovery. With respect to the ongoing negotiations to develop a new agreement on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), Dr. Sunami regards the process as important and sees a need to support capacity development for small island developing states to capitalize upon the opportunities that will arise under the agreement.
The polling questions that were conducted during the webinar revealed that almost 50% of the audience considers the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 as severe, and 40% considers them moderate. To facilitate a blue recovery in ocean sectors including fisheries, maritime, tourism, and energy, many consider finance as the most important factor, followed by access to technology and partnerships.
Throughout the discussion, Mr. Goddard captured a number of key perspectives of a blue recovery, such as the transition towards achieving sustainable fisheries, decarbonization in maritime sectors, and sustainable tourism. He also highlighted the importance of regional and international cooperation in the areas of data sharing on the marine environment and elimination of marine plastic. He considers it important to foster partnerships to promote a blue recovery through increasing conservation efforts and sustainable use of the ocean and marine resources.

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