Hundreds of millions in Asia and the Pacific, especially poor and vulnerable communities, depend on healthy ocean ecosystems for livelihoods, food, good health, and enjoyment. Coral reefs and mangroves are important natural buffers that protect the region’s growing coastal populations against increasingly common and severe extreme weather events like storms and coastal flooding. Climate change, pollution, unsustainable fishing, and rapid coastal development are threatening the productivity of our oceans. Eight million tons of plastic are entering the ocean every year and mostly from Asia, along with huge volumes of agricultural pollutants and untreated wastewater. Climate change is causing rising sea levels, ocean warming, and acidification, while unsustainable fishing is depleting fish stocks. Not taking action means the death of 90% of coral reefs by 2052 and the loss of all commercially exploitable wild fish stocks by 2048.
Healthy marine ecosystems are therefore crucial for the food security and livelihoods of billions of people in Asia and the Pacific. Marine economies already contribute $2.5 trillion to the global economy, and there are increasing opportunities in sustainable tourism, food production, wastewater treatment, integrated solid waste management, and sustainable coastal infrastructure.
The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 articulated the concept of a "blue economy". It is based on the premise that healthy and sustainable ocean ecosystems are more productive and a must for sustainable ocean-based economies and livelihoods. Blue economy promotes economic growth, social inclusion and improved livelihoods at the same time as ensuring the environmental sustainability of oceans and seas. It defines a new paradigm of ocean economy, one that is in balance with the long-term capacity of the assets, goods and services of marine ecosystems, and that considers social inclusiveness.
Securing these opportunities requires that poverty, environment and gender dimensions are integrated into the blue economy planning and financing mechanisms being developed by member States and key development partners in Asia and the Pacific. The Joint UNDP–UNEP Poverty-Environment Action for Sustainable Development Goals is supporting the integration of poverty, environment and gender dimensions into Blue Economy.
The Poverty-Environment Action programme is a global programme builds on the deep experience of the UNDP–UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), which pioneered integrated approaches to mainstreaming poverty-environment linkages in national development planning and implementation processes—first in support of national efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and now as a model for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Poverty-Environment Action signed an agreement to initiate the preparation of a joint report with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 1 June 2020 on Opportunities and Challenges for Investment in the Sustainable Blue Economy of Asia and the Pacific. The joint knowledge product will look at the potential impact of reduced productivity of oceans can have on poverty and environment and looking at the potential options to increase ocean productivity through sustainable investment in blue economy. The knowledge product will support the implementation of ADB’s Ocean Finance Initiative. At the same time, this knowledge product will also be used to inform the work of the UNEP administered Regional Seas Programmes and UNEP’s Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative and UNDP’s Ocean finance and blue economy programmes.
By building on PEI’s legacy, Poverty-Environment Action is uniquely placed to ensure that the environmental dimension is not left behind when addressing poverty. Leveraging broader 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals implementation processes provides new entry points not only to mainstream environmental sustainability and related climate concerns for poverty eradication, but also to gradually shift government priorities and resource allocation towards addressing these issues. Further, it provides opportunities to improve the quality of private sector investments to support poverty-environment objectives. This represents the new focus of Poverty-Environment Action —aligning finance and investment with poverty, environment and climate objectives to accelerate achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.