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World Ocean Summit blog: Must economy oppose environment?

IntraFish Editor Rachel Mutter was at this year's The Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia both as blogger and presenter. Check out our round-up of the conference.

Friday, Feb. 24, 4.02 p.m. CIT

The real fear factor of sea level rise

Sea levels will probably rise by around a meter by sometime around 2100 – that’s the commonly communicated scientific estimate.

That’s due to a number of reasons, according to Carol Anne Clayson, director at the Ocean and Climate Change Institute of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the United States.

One reason is the heat the ocean is soaking up on account of the greenhouse effect. Hot things expand, right? Ok, everyone’s still with us.

You also get additional water from melting ice at the poles… also caused by the greenhouse effect.

You also get sea rise in certain areas, because the ice around Greenland, for example (I think this was an example) has gravitational pull. Reduce the ice, reduce the pull, reduce the sea level around Greenland… the sea goes up somewhere else.

There is also El Nino to worry about, as well as all the affects of what we do on land… ground water removal, for example.

But that’s not the scary bit. No. The SCARY bit is that, according to Clayson, despite the estimation, there are many aspects of this that scientists really don’t have a good handle on.

These aspects include where the extra heat in the ocean is going, because its depth and geography will affect how much it creates sea level rise. And ice dynamics – an area where scientists are left guessing as to what might happen.

Basically, “there are a lot of uncertainties as to the magnitude and timing of the sea level rise,” Clayson broke it to the audience of one of this afternoon’s break out sessions.

She went on to say that if scientists were able to drop the level of uncertainty by 50 percent, like knowing when sea level rise will hit one meter, “how much better planning and mitigation we could do.”


Friday, Feb. 24, 1.33 p.m. CIT

Does ocean conservancy need a new language?

Europe will be one of the areas in the world most affected by climate change, said Ana Paula Vitorino, Minister of Sea, Portugal.

And she said it could have devastating effects on the economy.

Of the suggestion that oceans are bottom of the list on climate change policy, Vitorino diplomatically said that both land and ocean were equally as important.

"We have to fight for our baby, which is oceans, without decreasing importance of the forests," she said.

"The basis of the whole problem is the blindness of the ocean. Our society is not comfortable with the oceans because we don’t have enough knowledge.

"We have to work together -- we need a simple language to transmit the great ideas."


Friday, Feb. 24, 11.50 a.m. CIT

Are oceans high enough on the world's agenda?

"We can't ignore 70 percent of the planet," said Maria Damanaki, global managing director, oceans at The Nature Conservancy in a session earlier in the morning entitled "COP this -- the ocean and climate-change policy."

"We have to think of the ocean as our last reserve."

She mentioned that the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which has been referred to as pivotal several times during the conference, only included oceans at 'the final point'.

"We are moving there. We need more steps," she said of the suggestion that Oceans were simply not high enough on the agenda in climate change agreements.

She also reiterated the need for financing: "It’s about money. We are making a lot of promises, but then they have to be implemented."


Friday, Feb. 24, 11.20 a.m. CIT

Public vs private

Insurance plays a role in managing ocean risks, but the bigger picture is about managing those risks prior to loss.

“It’s not just about paying out claims,” said Paul Jardine, executive VP of XL Catlin, “but incentivizing people to make change”, giving lower premiums for sustainable solutions.

“I think we can do more in the private sector more quickly than governments can to create change,” he said.

Christopher Knowles, head of the climate change and environment division at the European investment bank agreed. “We try to integrate climate into everything we do -- we carbon footprint our portfolio and try and see where the shift could be.”

“We are renowned for bringing a lot of baggage to any financial agreement, but clients find that they are in a better bankable situation at the end of it.”


Friday, Feb. 24, 10.33 a.m. CIT

Bye bye plastic bags…

What does it take to get the governor of Bali to take notice of your environmental campaign? Write him a handwritten letter everyday for two years and go on hunger strike.

This is what it took for two Bali school girls, aged 10 and 12 at the time, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, to get him to have a meeting over their Bye Bye Plastic Bags Campaign to make Bali plastic bag free by 2018.

Now, their campaign is working in nine other locations and has organized 47 beach clean-ups. That is commitment.


Friday, Feb. 24, 09.15 a.m. CIT

Climate change has real employment knock-on

David Schumacher, director of the Washington State Office of Financial Management said that while 'it's kind of odd sending the budget director to an event like this," it is to make a point about the economic and employment impact of climate change.

"Downtown Seattle doesn’t need any more jobs for now," he said. "We need jobs in the rest of the state – whether that's oyster farming or salmon fishing… it is important to the economy."

Washington State's Governor formed the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification on the back of massive oyster losses in the Puget Sound (see below) and is committed to that "whatever president we have," said Schumacher.


Friday, Feb. 24, 08.45 a.m. CIT

Real effects of ocean acidification seen in Puget Sound oyster industry

The destruction of Washington State’s oyster industry by ocean acidifcation in 2005/6 brought the risks of climate change to the fore, said Governor Jay Inslee speaking by video to the World Ocean Summit.

The state’s industry lost billions of juvenile oysters – nearly the entire stock – with a total economic value of $270 million.

“Oyster growers adjusted” to save the industry, said Inslee, but ocean acidity is set to double by the end of this century. “Unless we do something about it now, we have dire days ahead.”

The event led the state to form the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification and urged all governments to join.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 3.27 p.m. CIT

Looking beyond feed

While 60-70 percent of the environmental effect of aquaculture comes from feed, it is important to look at other areas that can affect the scaling up of aquaculture, said World Fish’s Blake Ratner in this afternoon’s session.

Work on breeding and life cycle analysis can achieve “rather remarkable environmental improvement,” he said.

Also in social terms, there are opportunities there to shift communities from say, rice to fish.

“I encourage us when we’re looking at sustainable aquaculture to look at the separate pillars and how they operate together.”

Ratner also asked to what extent there is a need for renewing the norms for sustainable aquaculture to show investors what is good practice.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 3.15 p.m. CIT

The vicious cycle of risk

Geir Myre, head of aquaculture at XL Catlin Group said, as 'the world’s biggest aquaculture insurer', they had realized that 80 percent of aquaculture simply cannot be insured.

“Transparency is limited – you cannot prove how much is in the cages… and technology infrastructure is not good enough.”

Myre took the example of southern Chile’s algae hit, saying it had been Catlin’s biggest loss ever. “Claims added up to $120 million -- we lost all premiums.”

He went on to describe a vicious investment circle where “Investors want insurance to invest and then sometimes investors enter businesses that we don’t want to insure… R&D, experimental projects,” he said.

Mike Velings, Aqua-Spark founder and one of the investors behind Calysta’s Feedkind amongst other things, disagreed: “We require our farms to have insurance as soon as possible, but we don’t think it’s necessary for investment.”

He went on to say though, that one of the biggest problems in the industry was lack of data.

“What should the economics of an aquaculture company look like?” he asked.

“There is no model for that.”


Thursday, Feb. 23, 3.07 p.m. CIT

Traceability -- who cares?

Calysta's Alan Shaw said the company is working with two of the UK’s leading retailers, using carbon data to trace the supply chain of shrimp.

"Believe it or not, you could go into a restaurant in NY and know that the shrimp on your plate ate foodkind," he said, of the patented technology.

"But if they offer it on shrimp they might be forced to offer it on all their products... Innovation isn’t always welcomed by everybody. Disruption in itself can cause problems," he said.

Thai Union's Darian McBain agreed, saying that while BAP 4* exists as the top ranking shrimp production certification, not everyone in the market demands or wants it.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 2.50 p.m. CIT

Don't just walk away

You can scale up aquaculture, but it has to be sustainable, said Darian McBain, group director of sustainable development at Thai Union this afternoon.

She said climate change, disease management -- 'it can devastate an industry if you don't manage it from the start' -- and a 'perceived lack of traceability' can scare off investors, but that it should really be about management of the risks, rather than just 'walking away from aquaculture' because of its challenges.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 2.30 p.m. CIT

One step at a time

We have to focus on sustainable solutions and then we can save the planet, said Alan Shaw, CEO of feed ingredient start-up Calysta at this afternoon's breakout session: Scaling up investment in sustainable aquaculture.

The three risks of any start-up are technology, market and execution, said Shaw, stating that of those his only concern with Feedkind was execution.

Scaled up from a model trialled on Norwegian salmon, he said the technology was very reliable. In terms of market, he said there was 'no risk -- the first phase [of production] is already sold out'; and of execution -- 'to me, this was all about investment'.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 12.03 p.m. CIT

Power to the people

Environmental clean-up is not just the remit of developed nations.

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda is ‘by far the cleanest city in Africa” according to Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, launching the UN Marine Campaign.

And they did this without the help of Europe or any other developed nation, he said.

Citizens, governments and business together can make this happen worldwide.

He went on to talk about a recent large-scale coastal clean-up in Mumbai, India.

“It was initiated by one person who had an apartment overlooking the bay and decided ‘we can’t go on living like this’. So he mobilized neighbors and then the business and government joined, said Solheim.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 11.38 a.m. CIT

Scaling up investment

World government debt is $73 trillion and world GDP is also funnily enough $73 million – “the world’s governments have already borrowed next year’s GDP,” said Michael Eckhart, managing director and head of environmental finance and power at Citigroup during this morning’s finance panel.

So how do we get private finance to fund environmental initiatives?

Well, this idea of getting governments to send out huge ocean clean-up operations – it feels too big, too expensive, said Eckhart.

“ So why not let competition to go to work instead?” he asked.

“Make governments sign a treaty to pay [x] amount for waste and companies will go out, finance their own boats [and do the job].”


Thursday, Feb. 23, 11.06 a.m. CIT

Let the children lead the way

Reacting to the prediction that by 2050 there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish, Covestro’s Patrick Thomas was emphatic that plastic should never end up in the ocean or in landfill, saying it "made no sense" economically.

How to tackle it?

“Well, if you come home one day and your house is flooded… what do you do first? You turn off the tap,” said Thomas, calling on people to tackle the source of the problem first and foremost.

The organization is also doing work with education in Thailand and China, distributing story books for children in schools about the damage of throwing plastic into water bodies.

“If you teach the children, they will educate their parents,” he said.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 10.30 a.m. CIT

Sustainability pays for itself

Rob Walton of the Walton Family Foundation – the philanthropic organization set up by the founders of Walmart – said this morning that Walmart’s commitment to sourcing sustainable seafood has paid for itself in terms of energy savings and packaging, but also reputation.

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“We are more profitable for having done this and it has improved our reputation… which needs some help from time to time,” he said.

The foundation has been working with fisheries in Indonesia, Chile, Peru, Mexico and the United States and its experiences has Walton feeling optimistic.

“Fisheries have a lot of potential for resilience – we have seen tremendous recovery in the Gulf of Mexico, for example.”

He is also encouraged by the foundation’s work in Indonesia where he says there have been "dramatic improvements" in fisheries.


Thursday, Feb. 23, 10.15 a.m. CIT

Will the ocean get 'Trumped'?

With populism rising in Europe and takeover merchants looking for political advantage, how worried should we be about these political developments and their impact on the ocean economy, Dominic Ziegler, The Economist’s Asia Editor, asked of this morning’s panel.

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“Those who believe only in economy, they have brought this planet to the way it is today,” said Anwar Hossain Manju, Bangladesh’s minister for environment and forests.

“We have to balance growth…while we cannot ignore growth, we cannot and should not ignore the environment.

“Many countries think they have been disadvantaged by globalization, but eventually we all have to come together to save the environment."


Thursday, Feb. 23, 09.30 a.m. CIT

Big ocean, big responsibility

Seventy percent of our world is ocean. Yet more than 95 percent of global economic activity is coming from land, said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, European Commission

“This is a huge economic opportunity, but with that we also have a big environmental responsibility.”

“Unless we really start protecting the oceans, all that potential will be lost.”

He added that in Europe, the ocean economy is already worth €1.3 trillion in gross annual value, but added that more global governance is needed.

“We have made a lot of environmental mistakes on land that we cannot possibly repeat in the ocean.”


Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7.45 p.m. CIT

A warm welcome

The Economist's fourth World Ocean Summit kicked off Wednesday evening against a beautiful beach backdrop in Bali, Indonesia.

The aim of this year's conference is to bring 'a critical eye' to how to finance a sustainable ocean economy and to mobilise a new discussion on how capital and the private sector can drive scalable, sustainable investment in the ocean.

 Tomorrow will see breakout panels on fisheries and aquaculture, with IntraFish Editor Rachel Mutter presenting on the current investment landscape alongside Thai Union's Darian McBain; Worldfish's Blake Ratner; Calysta's Alan Shaw; and FAO's Arni Mathiesen.

IntraFish will also be tweeting from the event. Follow us @intrafish and @rachelintrafish.


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