The United Nations Global Opportunity Report 2016 highlights how we can address current risks by pursuing avenues that create benefits for societies and the environment.
It’s often said that challenges and opportunity go hand in hand. The world is currently facing many global challenges, from food security to air quality and when finding solutions to these challenges, better ways of operating can also be found. This is the basis for the United Nations Global Opportunity 2016 report. The report is the work of the Global Opportunities Network, an organisation with the goal of enabling businesses to embrace challenges as opportunities that can provide future prosperity. With this in mind the network surveyed more than 5,000 government, business, and social leaders from across the world before creating the report.
“With this report, the partners aim to demonstrate how global sustainability challenges and risks can be seen as opportunities,” says Bjorn Haugland, from DNV GL, one of the authoring organisations. The other main authors are Monday Morning Global Institute and United Nations Global Compact. The report recognises that it is people, not just words on paper that enact change and includes a section on Opportunity Leaders. These are people who are using their positive mindset to innovatively pursue opportunities for growth, development and social change, and encourage others to do the same.
The report focuses on five risks, and their corresponding opportunities. The risks are:
1. Loss of ocean biodiversity
2. Resistance to life saving medicine
3. Accelerating transport emissions
4. A generation wasted
5. Global food crisis.
Each of these risks and their opportunities will be explored over a series of blogs, starting with loss of ocean diversity.
Loss of ocean diversity
We live on a blue planet. Around 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by the ocean, and it doesn’t just take up space, approximately three billion people are dependent on protein from fish to survive. Our oceans are extremely important, yet we are seeing unprecedented losses of biodiversity that will have catastrophic effects if action is not taken soon. Over fishing, nutrient pollution, habitat destruction, marine litter and ocean acidification have already contributed to the 39% decline in ocean biodiversity seen from 1979 to 2010. But as the UN report points out it’s not all doom and gloom. Protecting this valuable resource will provide a chance to innovate and take collaborative action that will benefit both people and the ocean.
The first opportunity identified for oceans is closing the loop. A huge quantity of what we use on land washes into our oceans. But what if these byproducts could be used for something else or kept where they are needed? This is the theory behind the sustainability principle of ‘closing the loop’. If we can reduce our waste, our oceans will benefit. By closing the loop we can stop over feeding the oceans with nutrients and other pollutants, and reuse and recycle valuable resources. An instance of this is recycling phosphorus from animal manure that may otherwise be washed into the ocean and using it to fertilise plant crops. Another example is companies who recycle plastic bags to make decking boards. This will provide business opportunities, turning waste into saleable products.
Opportunity number two for our oceans is to put into place a regenerative ocean economy. Marine ecosystems provide us with a wide variety of resources, from the tourism dollars and coastal protection of coral reefs to food sources like fisheries. By regenerating the biodiversity we can benefit the ocean, and provide a greater and better managed resource for humans.
The final opportunity identified for the ocean is the concept of a ‘smart ocean’. The unexplored depths of Mariana’s trench aren’t the only unknowns in the ocean. There is currently a gap in scientific knowledge and regulatory frameworks that if filled would allow effective management and exploration of this immense area. Smart monitoring of the ocean can help us close these gaps and shed light on further opportunities that the ocean can provide. Organisations such as Planet OS are helping to bring together ocean data from proprietary, publicly available and commercial data via cloud storage to make the data more accessible and usable.
Seizing these opportunities presents a valuable chance to improve ocean biodiversity. We can do this and reap the rewards with a little ingenuity and a lot of leadership.
A participant in the UN Global Compact, CourtHeath Consulting seeks to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Global Compact with business and government organisations in Victoria.
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IMAGE: Used under licence from shutterstock.com.ShareShare Global risks lead to global opportunities – Part 1: Oceans
By Rebecca Thompson