Thinking blue: investment to maintain world’s common wealth

The Earth’s oceans face many threats, none of which have quick fixes. Still, the solutions are known, and with a sufficiently broad coalition of partners, we can get the ball rolling on a number of fronts. A wide range of human activities from burning fossil fuels to over-fishing have been degrading the oceans for years. By increasing the absorption of carbon dioxide, global warming is acidifying the oceans and reducing oxygen levels, harming or killing marine plants, animals, and other organisms and as the ice caps melt, rising sea levels are increasingly putting hundreds of millions of people in coastal areas at risk.

During the last few decades, growth of FDI’s in developing nations and transition economies have increased substantially which indicates a substantial investment by establishing or buying business in foreign countries but the impact of FDI on the environment has become a controversially debated issue all around the world. FDI has environmental challenges and environmental opportunities for both, donor and recipient. For recipient countries and areas, investment boosts economic development. However, pollution often increases when raising outputs (the ‘scale effect’). In addition, investment industries are mainly those that are resource intensive, such as mining, construction, timber and infrastructure construction, often putting a heavy burden on local ecological environments.

Finally, gaps in national environmental standards may draw polluting industries to certain countries, creating ‘pollution havens’ and propelling a global ‘race to the bottom’ with regard to environmental standards. FDI also brings environmental opportunities to recipient countries. These may include better skills and technology transfer, as well as potentially stricter environmental standards under international supervision, and more efficient energy use.

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Local environments come with environmental challenges and environmental opportunities to donors as well (focusing CPEC) such as Chinese companies. Challenges include local environmental uncertainties and risks such as climate change problems and disasters. Also, a number of green barriers exist, restricting investment, such as strict environmental standards, green market access, and anti-eco-dumping.

Taking tea export as an example, until 2001 China accounted for more than 70% of the world’s exports. After the appearance of green indicators analysis, tea exports dropped significantly. On the other hand, a recipient country also provides resources, energy, and environmental capacity for investment companies, presenting environment opportunities to investors. Concerning FDI’s significant environmental consequences it is mandatory for both donor and recipient nations to carry out assessments.

Most of the countries in Asia lack modern treatment plants in most of their cities, sewage is being dumped into rivers and canals from where it eventually runs off into the oceans creating large amounts of toxins. Most of the plastic that ends up in the oceans comes from trash discarded in coastal areas or near rivers by the two billions of population who lack waste-collection services almost 90% of all the plastic arriving in the oceans from rivers comes from just ten countries, mainly in Africa and Asia. In addition, with the construction of CPEC, almost 7000 trucks per day are expected to pass through the coastal line leading to emission of CO2 up to 36.5 million tons which is definitely alarming for Pakistan as it may cause extreme flooding and water famine results poor agriculture and poor conditions to feed swift growing population in near future.

Fixing these problems will require cooperation at all levels. It will also require new investment resources not just to repair eroded coastlines but to prepare for rising seas and extreme weather by cracking down illegal fishing, fund research, and develop lower-carbon sea transportation and sustainable seafood production. Saving the oceans should not be an afterthought. More than three billion people depend on the oceans for their livelihoods. Ocean and coastal resources and industries contribute about $3 trillion per year (5 % of world GDP) to the global economy and offer huge potential for further growth, job creation, and innovation. Oceans are also a major source of renewable energy and natural resources, its environmental value is huge.

Oceans have taken up between 20-30% of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions since the 1980s. They produce over half of the world’s oxygen, and transport heat from the equator to the poles. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), half of the mountain glaciers in the world could disappear by the year 2100 thus regulating our climate for sustainable “blue” economy has been one of the priorities which demand several initiatives to facilitate cooperation in cleaning up the oceans and safeguarding marine-based economic activity.

Encouraging innovative projects in the “blue” economy is not so much a question of more money. It is also about lifting barriers to new projects, and reducing investment risk. These investments will address coastal erosion, help fisheries process and preserve food, make shipping more environmentally friendly, and improve research into biotechnology products keeping in mind the fact that these sustainability challenges are not just ecological, but economic so, it is important to evaluate the environment damages we may suffer in future due to CPEC to target the environmental risk and bio diversity issues by formulating a separate regulatory network comprises of specialist from both countries because ecological alterations, melting glaciers, drenching rivers and threats of bio-diversity will impact not only impact Pakistan but all the nations invested in CPEC including China. In order to have the eco-friendly environment it is suggested to use electric vehicles instead of oil based vehicles, install proper disposal arrangements and eco-friendly machinery to avoid wastage in air and water that definitely ensure eco-friendly Corridor. The urgency of the challenge cannot be overstated. We should protect the oceans not for our own prosperity and wellbeing but to protect this common wealth of entire world so, if we really desires to keep our physical investments save and protected we should start thinking Blue as our future depended on it.

The Author is MD IRP/Faculty Department of H&SS; Bahria University Karachi/National Coordinator of Blue Economy

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