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Making the best of Blue resources

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China Energy Fund Committee

CEFC supports UN’s sustainability call and urges to develop Blue Economy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 2:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 2:36pm

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A highly developed Blue Economy is the key to reversing over exploitation of ocean resources, argues a top-tier think-tank actively promoting sustainable development.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the pledge is sounded out from a Hong Kong-based think-tank, China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), although it’s fair to point out that the organisation is also domiciled in the US, and it works with many cutting edge universities, research institutes and other think-tanks around the world as well.

Hong Kong people know what the ocean can offer. Ranked second in Asia (per capital) for the consumption of seafood and the eighth largest in the world. This means that each Hong Kong person consumes an average of 65.5 kg of seafood per year — by any measure this is an astonishing amount, more than three times higher than global averages. 

So Hong Kong seafood lovers, more than any other people on the planet, need to be aware that due to the over exploitation of fishing areas, and the illegal practices of fishing fleets, there is the real danger of our ocean being literally fished to death.

According to WWF-Hong Kong, Bluefin tuna (of the type sold as sashimi), sturgeon caviar, eel, groupers and conch are just a few of our seafood delicacies which may one day be made extinct due to extensive over-fishing.

In fact, human beings depend much more on the ocean for their foods, than from any other source. Those sea breeze holidays that many of us enjoy boosts economic growth for countless coastal economies.

Algae biofuels from marine phytoplankton are now being studied by scientists, because someday, in the not distant future, they may prove to be both less costly and a far cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. Connecting all continents, and linking all human life on our fragile planet, the ocean carries 90 per cent of global trade. What’s more, the ocean waters protect tens of thousands of miles of undersea cables for our international phone calls and our internet service — of which Hong Kong is a key Asian hub.

However, our magnificently beautiful oceans have been polluted by self-centred humans who have also mindlessly used ruinous fishing practices.

In Hong Kong, beach pollution by plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers, in the wake of typhoons Hato and Pakhar is a glaring example.

In view of the ever-deteriorating status of our priceless ocean, the United Nations put in place the Sustainable Development Goal 14, a global indicator framework, in March 2016. The SDG 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for long-term and sustainable development.

Supported by CEFC, which is engaged in a range of research, notably geopolitics to promote peace for all mankind, the president of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, was invited to speak at a luncheon on the SDG 14, bringing together high-ranking officials and respected academics from around the world to discuss the solutions for saving our oceans.  

At the luncheon, president Thomson pointed out that all the stakeholders, including the UN, various global governments, civil society, the scientific community, and business sectors must work together to change the course of our ocean’s destiny. This is a vision also herald by CEFC, which has been embracing the ideal of the Blue Economy.

According to the World Bank Group, the Blue Economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and the oceans’ ecological health.

Key personalities of CEFC are already known among top UN officials. In June, the high-level UN Ocean Conference, held in New York UN Headquarters, invited Hong Kong’s Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Deputy Chairman and Secretary General of CEFC, to speak at a plenary meeting, a partnership dialogue session, and the closing plenary session, where Ho advocated the Blue Economy to some 6,000 important figures from around the world.   

Dr Ho pointed out that the over reliance on marine resources from humans has caused serious environmental hazards to the ocean. But trying to save the oceans by cutting off every human activity is not a sound or effective solution. The former Secretary for Home Affairs of the Hong Kong Government argued that the Blue Economy concept, can instead both give time for the ocean to recover from previous exploitation, and yet allow humans to still harvest the seas for our food – but without damaging its delicate ecosystem.

“This is particularly important for developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) — the ocean represents the bulk of these nation’s wealth —a direct way to meet their basic food needs and also a source of jobs,” he added.

While the Blue Economy can range from port commerce, and the logistics industry, to fisheries, and wave-generated energy to ocean-based tourism, Ho found that ocean energy, which is green and renewable with zero carbon footprint, includes electricity generated from tides, ocean currents, and temperature and salinity gradients, to possibly have the greatest potential to be developed by the SIDS.

“The potential production capacity for ocean energy is calculated to be up to seven times the world’s current power generation capacity”, Ho remarked, citing scientific results from the think-tank’s partners.

While many SIDSs are struggling to conserve their respective marine habitat, and to harness investments for developing the Blue Economy including ocean energy, and building resilient infrastructures, they lack the capacity to mobilize and leverage available resources, and the necessary networking to form strategic alliances to spearhead coordinated development with an economy of scale. Coordinated efforts in ocean conservation and for ocean economy call for Blue Connectivity. A Blue platform is desperately needed.

With China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in the making, Dr Ho believes it is the timely answer to this need for a coordinated platform of Blue Connectivity. He suggested that countries collaborate through the initiative, and throw their full support behind SIDS to develop ocean economy and energy, as well as for ocean conservation.

Said Ho: “Collaborating on the Blue Economy is a means by which we can achieve the UN sustainable development goals, and also lay the groundwork for a global community of shared interest and of common destiny — a place where no one is left behind, and no one has to take second place.”

Being a non-governmental and non-profit strategic think-tank that engages in energy strategy, public diplomacy, global cooperation and cultural exchanges, CEFC has been building platforms that enhance international dialogue and regional cooperation. The Committee also holds a special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

Apart from participation in the Ocean Conference in June, and supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 luncheon, CEFC has also funded and supported the UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs' work on “Powering the Future We Want”, a one-million-dollar energy grant, offered now third year in a row, for innovative projects that advance energy for sustainable development.

CEFC has also been working with the UN departments, under the banner of the 21st century maritime silk road of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), to address issues such as lack of access to financial resources, credit, business operation capacities, market analysis skills and the need for management skill training for microscopic, small and medium enterprises, such as small-scale artisanal fishers, around the planet.

All the efforts that CEFC has made come under the belief that only when all stakeholders sincerely join hands to unlock the potential of the Blue Economy, will we be able to ensure a bright and sustainable future for all —  our irreplaceable oceans included.