Written by Frederik Scholaert and Karin Jacobs.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, set the global roadmap for achieving sustainable development. It includes SDG 14 on ‘life below water’, which focuses on the sustainability of the oceans, thereby recognising their essential role in life on our planet. Oceans contain 80 % of all life forms, produce more than 50 % of the Earth’s oxygen and play a central role in regulating the climate. In addition, the ‘blue economy’ provides 4.5 million direct jobs in the EU. It covers traditional sectors, such as fisheries, maritime transport and coastal tourism, as well as innovative sectors, such as renewable ocean energy and the blue bioeconomy, which show great potential for sustainable blue growth. However, human activities threaten the health of our oceans. The effects of climate change are devastating, resulting in rising water temperatures, acidification, increased flooding and loss of marine biodiversity. The combination with other man-made stressors, such as pollution, including from land-based resources, and overexploitation of marine resources exacerbates the problem, reduces the resilience of oceans and poses a serious threat to the planet as a whole.
To manage maritime activities sustainably and cope with different environmental pressures, the EU has implemented a wide range of policies. This includes established policies, such as the common fisheries policy, the marine strategy framework directive and the maritime spatial planning directive, as well as specific legislation related to marine litter. Other new initiatives under the European Green Deal also play an important role in relation to ocean governance and sustainable blue growth, such as the 2030 biodiversity strategy, the offshore renewable energy strategy, the ‘Fit for 55’ package and the new guidelines on aquaculture. The external dimension of EU policies, its international ocean governance agenda and its global commitments make the EU a global player in shaping ocean governance and contribute to its commitment to deliver fully on SDG 14. On the occasion of World Oceans Day on 8 June 2022, this publication provides an overview of the main EU policies and initiatives in the field of ocean governance.
Read the complete briefing on ‘EU action on ocean governance and achieving SDG 14‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘EU action on ocean governance and achieving SDG 14‘ on YouTube.