On the first day of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), Prince Albert II of Monaco launched the third “Because the Ocean” declaration, noting the critical role the world’s oceans play in the fight against climate change, such as absorbing over a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and most of its excess heat. But the fact that a separate pronouncement about the oceans needs to be made at the world’s largest and most influential climate event also points to a lack of coordination between efforts to enhance marine sustainability and broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
A growing number of technologies and tech-enabled processes—known collectively as blue technology, or blue tech—are becoming important in several contexts that can help mitigate the effects of climate change or restore health to marine ecosystems.
Science- and nature-based approaches are addressing environmental degradation and increasing decarbonization, either through directly removing carbon dioxide from the ocean or by using the ocean as a “platform” for renewable energy.
Blue technologies are also creating and managing information and insight into maritime commercial activities through sensors and artificial intelligence-enabled analytics. Better and more complete data on the ocean and maritime industrial activities will help accelerate blue innovation and, over time, break down silos between conservation and decarbonization efforts to address climate change on land, in the atmosphere, and at sea.
The Blue Technology Barometer is a ranking of 66 countries and territories with large or economically significant ocean coastlines on their progress and commitment toward protecting ocean sustainability.
The index consolidates scores given to each country or territory across four pillars: ocean environment, marine activity, technology innovation, and policy and regulation.
The key findings are as follows:
• The top 10 scorers in the barometer—the “blue technology leaders”—are all advanced economies and, with the important exception of South Korea, are all Western economies.
At 7.83, the United Kingdom ranks first, in large part because of its blue technology ecosystem and its leadership position in offshore renewable energy facilities, which includes the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
Germany follows closely, at 7.54; the German government has been a strong advocate and investor in coastal marine conservation at home and abroad.
The United States (7.23) ranks fourth, propelled by the strength of its blue technology innovation sector.
Four Nordic countries, which have collaborative solutions-minded governments and deep digital technology innovation ecosystems with numerous links to their maritime economies, are in the top 10: Denmark (7.37), Finland (6.93), Norway (6.92), and Sweden (6.71) rank third, fifth, sixth, and eighth, respectively.