Breathing life into the blue: Three actions the EU must take for our beloved ocean
While the “blue” is still missing in the EU’s Green Deal, six NGOs took it upon themselves to publish the Ocean of Change: a joint Manifesto for the 2024 European Elections to wake up EU political parties and show how the ocean needs to shift to the centre of the debate on the nature and climate crises.
Our seas and their constant decline have been ignored for decades, a forgotten commodity, invisible to governments and decision-makers, yet good enough for holidays. How can something so vital for our health, our economy, our culture, our environment, and the climate be washed away into a blind spot?
The current state of marine nature is in a poor state and Europe’s seas overexploited. The window of opportunity to avoid major and likely irreversible damage, and combat the inevitable effects of climate change is closing very quickly: the International Panel on Climate Change estimates that global emissions will need to peak by mid-decade and then quickly decline if we are to restrict global heating to 1.5ºC. Stopping human-induced climate change and restoring resilient and rich ecosystems, including in the ocean, are our most urgent tasks if we are to save our civilisation.
In 2019, the EU embarked on the “European Green Deal” to turn our economy away from ecological degradation and build a resilient and equitable society that can live in harmony with the natural world. However, the “Blue” is still missing from the “Green” Deal. To that end, our manifesto calls on the EU to bring the ocean to the Green Deal by delivering the following actions:
Action 1 – Adopt an overarching and ambitious EU Ocean Deal:
To integrate existing and potential new legislation related to the marine environment into an overarching framework. The action needs to assure coherence between different sectoral policies (such as fisheries, transportation, and energy production), while also adjusting them to the preservation and protection plans of our ocean. The ocean’s protection, preservation, and management need to be acknowledged as common responsibilities, and clear, tangible targets to achieve the Good Environmental Status of EU Seas need to be set.
Action 2 – Support the delivery of ambitious policy objectives for the Ocean with an EU Ocean Fund:
This fund should set measures for the long-term restoration and conservation of the marine environment, while enabling a transition of ocean-related economic sectors towards more sustainable, fair, decarbonised and low-impact activities for the benefit of all. In addition, harmful subsidies should be urgently eliminated.
Action 3 – Put the Ocean at the heart of the EU decision-making process:
The EU needs to establish an Ocean Committee within the European Parliament in order to overcome the current siloed approach to policymaking. The committee will be responsible for the Ocean Deal and the Ocean Fund. Furthermore, joint Council meetings of Environment, Energy, Fisheries, and Transport ministers have to take place within each Council Presidency to make and monitor progress on the implementation of the Ocean Deal.
Shifting the ocean to the heart of EU decision-making process is a critical step to make our forgotten seas visible again.
The adaptation of an ambitious EU Ocean Deal and the support and delivery of ambitious policy objectives with the creation of an EU Ocean Fund, are first steps to avoid the worst-case scenario. Our seas are important factors in our daily lives for policymakers and civilians alike. We use them as a resource of food, as a means of transport, as pillars of our culture, societies and our identities and they ultimately deserve to be protected and restored. The Ocean Manifesto will help us steer towards better health for our seas.
The NGOs engaged in the publication of this manifesto are: BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, ClientEarth, Oceana, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and the WWF European Policy Office.
Photo: Shutterstock, Noradoa
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.