New Caribbean centre for oceanography, blue economy welcomed

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has welcomed plans to establish a new Centre of Excellence in Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of West Indies Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, which co-chairs the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, the University of the West Indies and the Association of Commonwealth Universities agreed to work together towards this goal, with a memorandum of understanding signed today.

The Centre will aim to advance intellectual progress and strengthen institutional capacity in the areas of marine science and the blue economy for the Caribbean region.

Signed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies Hilary Beckles and Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Ed Byrne, the MoU also allows the three parties to develop joint research, training and capacity-building programmes, as well as share academic and educational content.

Hailing the initiative, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is co-champion of the Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, and the bold initiative of developing a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy…will build in new ways on this commendable commitment.

“This new Centre of Excellence will be a fresh expression of our longstanding Commonwealth concern for the environment, including our ocean, and the clarion call to action made in the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as long ago as 1989.”

She stressed the Commonwealth Secretariat’s “wholehearted support”, adding: “I welcome the new opportunities for Commonwealth cooperation which the Centre will open up and mobilise – particularly for our young people.”

As part of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Antigua and Barbuda (alongside Kenya) co-champions member-driven actions that encourage better stewardship of the ocean’s ‘blue resources’ and marine environment.

Launched in 2018, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment by leaders of the organisation’s 54 member countries to actively collaborate on solving ocean-related challenges.

Antigua & Barbuda to co-champion blue economy action for the Commonwealth

The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on the sustainable blue economy, alongside the current champion country, Kenya.

As a new co-champion, Antigua and Barbuda will work with Kenya, as well as the other action group members, to cooperatively develop sustainable blue economy strategies across Commonwealth countries, covering more than a third of the world’s coastal waters.

Blue Economy

The aim of a ‘blue’ economy is to support the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods, while protecting ocean health.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “It is very encouraging that Antigua and Barbuda, a ‘large ocean state’, has stepped forward to co-champion the sustainable stewardship of our vast ‘blue wealth’. This welcome milestone demonstrates the commitment of Commonwealth countries to leveraging ocean resources wisely, sustainably and responsibly, while tackling unemployment, food insecurity and poverty.

“In this regard, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for countries to proactively collaborate across borders to tackle shared ocean challenges.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of the Blue Economy, Dean Jonas said: “We commend the Commonwealth on its development of the Blue Charter and in championing work on the sustainable blue economy.

“Antigua and Barbuda has long had a special relationship with the oceans.  We are, however, keen to understand more about the potential of our oceans as an economic growth area as well as balance this with protecting and promoting the health of our oceans. Antigua and Barbuda is committed to being an active member of this action group working alongside Kenya and all states who are members of this group.”

Prof. Micheni Japhet Ntiba, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy in Kenya added: “Kenya is very pleased to be able to welcome Antigua and Barbuda as a co-Champion. Kenya has long recognised the necessity to work together to build strong and resilient blue economies.  We look forward to working with Antigua and Barbuda moving forward.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment made by leaders of all 54 member countries to work together in tackling ocean challenges and fulfilling global commitments on ocean sustainability. It was endorsed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, UK in April 2018.

Ten Action Groups, led by 14 countries, implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, each focusing on a different ocean challenge, from marine pollution to climate change.

The Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy encourages better stewardship of ocean resources through actions such as sharing strategies and best practices, promoting green and blue innovative technologies, and financial instruments such as blue bonds and blue carbon credits. The group also seeks to empower coastal communities economically, while building their resilience to future shocks.

Post-COVID recovery should lock in ocean sustainability, says Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is urging governments to ensure their countries’ post-COVID economic recoveries are environmentally sustainable and safe for the ocean.

Forty-seven of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries have a coastline while 25 are either small island developing states or ‘big ocean states’ relying heavily on the ocean for food and income.

Sustainable blue and green economies

On World Oceans Day (8 June), Secretary-General Patricia Scotland calls on countries to reform development strategies in a way that supports vibrant and sustainable blue and green economies.

She said: “The ocean is the life blood of so many Commonwealth countries and our environment should be the cornerstone as we put plans in place to recover our economies. The Commonwealth covers more than a third of coastal oceans in the world, contributing to a global ocean-based economy valued at US$3 to 6 trillion per year.

“COVID-19 impact has radically altered some of our key economic sectors and transformed the way we live, communicate and do business. While the fallout from the pandemic has had a huge impact on our blue economies, it also presents a crucial opportunity to strategise on how to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable economic practices built on climate resilience and ocean sustainability.

“The Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for global ocean action in the international landscape today. I commend the work of our member countries through the action groups and welcome the support we have received from national, regional and global partners, enabling us to mobilise together for ocean health.”

Blue Charter action groups

The Blue Charter is the Commonwealth’s commitment to work together to protect the ocean and meet global ocean commitments. Ten action groups, led by 13 champion countries, are driving the flagship initiative. More than 40 countries have signed up to one or more of these action groups, and counting.

Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups include:

  • Sustainable Aquaculture (led by Cyprus)
  • Sustainable Blue Economy (Kenya)
  • Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (Australia, Belize, Mauritius)
  • Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods (Sri Lanka)
  • Ocean Acidification (New Zealand)
  • Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji)
  • Ocean Observations (Canada)
  • Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (marine plastic pollution – United Kingdom, Vanuatu)
  • Marine Protected Areas (Seychelles)
  • Sustainable Coastal Fisheries (Kiribati)

Members of the private sector, academia and civil society – including Vulcan Inc, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Nekton Foundation and many others – are also engaged as Blue Charter partners.

Commonwealth Blue Charter – All Champions Meeting

Countries driving the Commonwealth Blue Charter project will meet in Cyprus from 21 to 24 March 2020. They will reflect on what they’ve achieved over the past year, and agree on a strategy for the coming year.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a landmark agreement by leaders to cooperate on ocean action. Since launching in 2018, 10 action groups led by 13 ‘champion’ countries have rallied Commonwealth members around pressing ocean issues like marine pollution, coral reef restoration and climate change.

Champion countries will share experiences, best practices and new ideas.

For more information, please contact Heidi Prislan, Commonwealth Blue Charter Adviser: [email protected] or [email protected]

Commonwealth countries taking lead on ocean-based climate action

A 14-strong international panel working to accelerate action for ocean protection features seven Commonwealth member countries.

Australia, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Ghana, Jamaica and Kenya all helped produce a report unveiled at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit which found that ocean-based climate action can play a much bigger role in shrinking the world’s carbon footprint than was previously thought.

In fact it could deliver up to a fifth of the annual greenhouse gas emissions cuts needed in 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Reductions of this magnitude are larger than annual emissions from all current coal fired power plants world-wide.

The report, launched in New York, is entitled ‘Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change: 5 Opportunities for Action’ and was produced by an expert international high-level panel made up of 14 heads of state and government.

The study is the first ever comprehensive, quantitative analysis into the role ocean-based solutions can play in the fight against climate change.

The report suggests the following solutions would help curb climate change, contribute to the development of a sustainable ocean economy, protect coastal communities from storms, provide jobs and improve food security:

  • Scaling up ocean-based renewable energy – which could save up to 5.4 gigatonnes of CO2e annually by 2050, equivalent to taking over a billion cars off the road each year.
  • Decarbonising domestic and international shipping and transport – which could cut up to 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2e annually by 2050.
  • Increasing the protection and restoration of “blue carbon” ecosystems – mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes – could prevent approximately 1 gigatonne of CO2e from entering the atmosphere by 2050.
  • Utilising low-carbon sources of protein from the ocean, such as seafood and seaweeds, to help feed future populations in a healthy and sustainable way

Australia is investing AUD$70 million in the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), a 10-year $329 million collaboration between 45 Australian and international partners to develop innovative and sustainable offshore industries to increase Australian seafood and marine renewable energy production.

Fiji is committing to making its shipping sector 100 per cent carbon-free by 2050 while Kenya will incorporate blue carbon ecosystems into its nationally determined contribution, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF.

Namibia is committing an additional US$5 million towards ocean research and protection over 2019/2020.

The report comes on the back of significant progress on the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Agreed unanimously by leaders in April 2018, the Blue Charter commits all 53 member countries to work together on solving crucial ocean-related challenges.

To date, 12 ‘champion’ countries have stepped forward to rally fellow members around nine key areas, including marine pollution, ocean acidification and the sustainable blue economy.

‘Fiji is leading on the Blue Charter Action Group on ‘oceans and climate change’, Kenya on the ‘sustainable blue economy’, Australia is co-leading on ‘coral reef protection and restoration’ and Canada on ‘ocean observation’.

Commonwealth Head of Ocean and Natural Resources, Nick Hardman-Mountford, said: “This report unequivocally shows that ocean based climate action is integral to reducing the global carbon footprint.

“Commonwealth countries have already come forward with game changing commitments. The Commonwealth Blue Charter that all Commonwealth countries adopted last year provides an action-orientated collaborative mechanism for countries to address ocean issues. We look forward to working with the Commonwealth countries to share experiences, take real action and lead the way forward.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said: “Fiji is leading Pacific Island States in a united and visionary response to the ocean’s untapped potential to combat global warming.

“We are collectively committed to cutting 40 per cent of emissions from Pacific shipping by 2030, and we’re making our shipping sector 100 per cent carbon-free by 2050. Together, we’re moving towards managing our waters sustainably.”

‘This report was swiftly followed by a study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which warned that humanity is in a race against the pace of climate change and our ability to respond to it and calls for urgent, ambitious and collaborative action.