“We must change tack and develop a sustainable blue economy where environmental protection and economic activities go hand in hand,” the European Commission’s vice president in charge of the EU’s Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said.
Maritime transport accounts for 2.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally and 13 percent of emissions from the EU’s transport sector, according to the Commission.
A recovery in big economies from the coronavirus pandemic this year and next means seaborne freight — handling 80 percent of the volume of the world’s trade in goods — is starting to expand rapidly.
The European Commission hopes to counter the increase in emissions with a plan to encourage the EU’s 27 member states and the bloc’s neighbours to invest in sustainable solutions, such as more efficient propulsion systems, slow steaming and weather routing.
By doing so, it hopes to grab the initiative from the UN’s International Maritime Organization, whose own global plan along the same lines is perceived as too slow and inadequate to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“We have an opportunity to start afresh, and we want to make sure that the recovery shifts the focus from mere exploitation to sustainability and resilience,” said the EU’s commissioner for maritime affairs, Virginijus Sinkevicius.
The EU’s approach covers also other “blue economy” sectors, including ports, fisheries, coastal tourism, and greatly increasing renewable ocean energy sources such as wind, waves and tides.
Together, they all represent 4.5 million direct jobs in the EU and 650 billion euros ($789 billion) in revenue.
Financing for the transition will come from the Commission and the European Investment Bank Group, which is made up of the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.
The EU executive said it also wants member states to use resilience and recovery funds, soon to be handed out.