• Ken Wekesa

Governments must build a sustainable blue economy in cities



Integrating governance mechanism is key to building a sustainable blue economy in cities, industry leaders said during a recently concluded virtual Innovate4cities climate change conference hosted by UN-Habitat and Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM).


In the session known as the innovation lab – a space where experts offered different methodologies, approaches, and solutions to promoting innovative practices that promote climate action in cities – the experts highlighted the importance of understanding what the Blue Economy means for cities to solve the climate change crisis in ocean-based economies.


During the discussions moderated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UN Habitat’s Human Settlements expert, Isabel Wetzel said:

“We are looking at issues around urban governance, spatial planning, data collection, you need to move towards an increased understanding of integration of these different spheres (the marine and urban spheres) to better tackle basically what the challenges and opportunities might be for cities and coastal areas.The (different) sectors or economies need to be understood in the context of cities because previously they have been treated as separate issues.”

A background paper published by UN-Habitat titled “Blue Economy and Cities” estimates that 3 billion people live within 200 kilometres of a coastline, and more than 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast and face higher environmental vulnerabilities than other regions.


The Global Director of Programs, Innovation and Impact at Resilient Cities Network, Katrin Bruebach said that the concept of urban resilience is very important when dealing with risks and vulnerabilities that come along with climate change within the Blue Economy.


“Cities cannot allow themselves to just look at one problem but they have to look at multiple problems at the same time. And I think the ocean and Blue Economy offers a massive opportunity and we can only do that if we create an equitable environment in cities and that means we need to look at the poor and the vulnerable and that means job creation is an absolute must,” she said.


“We cannot design a single intervention in any city around the world in this current climate without thinking of how to create jobs or how to lift people out of poverty. And I think all these bits and pieces (prepare for climate change, develop jobs, reduce poverty) add the essential parts and as far as I understand the blue economy offers exactly that guidance,” she added.

Resources Institute (WRI) Smita Rawoot said that there’s an urgent need to explore ways in which cities can leverage high water consumers within the private sector and other enterprises for economic benefits.


“There’s such a huge infrastructure gap in terms of investment, in terms of ability to invest and sustain water resources for the future that the public sector alone cannot hold this burden and hence we really need to understand what kind of policy incentives, policy strategies, economic incentives can be used by the public sector to better leverage private sector to optimize water used in their production cycles, support re-use, recycling of water within their production systems and become better stewards of water in the regions within they operate,” she said.


Ken Wekesa is Senior Communications Consultant on Climate Change and Urban Environment at UN-Habitat