The “blue” industry, especially the high range one, is one of the main development areas for the economy also in the near future.
China, which has always tried to strike a balance between maritime power and terrestrial equilibria in the Heartland, is the right place to think – for the first time – about a complete water geopolitics, as well as a real global industrial project.
The products that will be the axes of the new future technological revolution will increasingly come from the sea: energy, fast transport; rare metals, but also the most common ones; desalinated and processed water; DNA for study purposes and for medical applications, as well as oil and finally various traditional and non-traditional forms of food.
If, from now on, we create a global market for the Blue Economy, we will have safe and peaceful world development. Otherwise, if we repeat the old land struggles on the new sea – possibly with the same violent acquisition logic – we will have such new wars that the experience of land clashes cannot even make us imagine.
The Earth is finite and limited. Now we have to work on the sea, but we have to do so all together peacefully and with win-win actions.
It is estimated that the most environmental-friendly marine industry is currently worth 1.5 trillion US dollars and it is expected to be worth at least twice as much by the end of 2030.
Nowadays China dominates in all these blue economy areas. China’s fishing in foreign waters accounts for 44% of the world’s entire product and the same applies to ocean fishing, which accounts for 52% globally. This also holds true for China’s marine wind energy which accounts for 20% in the world. Also 50% of all the most active ports in the world are Chinese. Unfortunately, China also holds negative records such as 56% of all rivers polluted by plastics in the world.
Half of the world’s industrial fishing is Chinese. Hence, nowadays, China is already the world’s largest sea farmer. It has already organised the exploitation of its largest marine area for deep-sea mining, thus focusing on a deep-sea area that is four times the size of Switzerland.
Either you do good business with China in these areas or it is better staying at home.
Therefore, it is necessary to think about a sea “Silk Road” and not only to reach the Mediterranean.
A Silk Road to quickly change the whole paradigm of the world economy.
Hence, at the same time, it will also be necessary to reduce polluting emissions and possibly start the construction of many ocean parks, with a view to making the sea recover the products that are extracted from it.
Fixed cycle of nature, stability of economic cycles.
Among the companies in the various sectors of the Chinese Blue Economy, the collaboration with selected companies will be particularly useful both for the actual production of marine materials and for environmental protection. It should be recalled that the latter is a side of the Blue Economy coin. China does not think that environmental protection can be separated from the extraction of marine products.
In Europe, the Blue Economy system is still in the development phase. Hence the figures are still quite small: in 2017, the turnover of the whole sector was 658 billion euros, with a gross profit equal to 74.3 billion euros and a number of employees amounting to 4 million throughout the EU-28.
Within the European framework, the Blue Economy envisages the usual sectors of the Chinese one, albeit with a specific focus on underwater defence, which in China is calculated separately, in addition to putting all marine biotechnologies into a single category. The EU also envisages sea renewable energies as the greatest sector for future development.
The traditional European demography is another factor to be considered: 45% (214 million) of the EU population lives on the coasts and the Northern ones always record a higher GDP than the Southern coasts.
The successful European activities in the Blue Economy are still the traditional ones: tourism, spa and health services and some standard biotechnologies.
Obviously there are also maritime construction and repairs, but in specific areas of the European coasts – activities that now tend to be off the market.
Hence an EU Blue Economy linked to labour-intensive technologies, with insurmountable natural differences in the maximum use levels of the various areas.
Never as in the case of the Blue Economy do large expanses and boundless areas count – all the dimensions that, as Hegel said, have always been lacking in the physical and geographical dimension of the Eurasian peninsula.
The Jews called the Mediterranean “the Great Sea”, but this expression does not describe its physical dimensions, but only its historical and cultural ones.
Furthermore, coastal tourism in the EU is worth 54% of all “Blue” jobs and it is still growing, while the transport-related marine economy sectors are decreasing and the remaining maritime sectors are growing very slowly or are stable.
The problem lies in the fact that the Blue Economy is a global project for transforming the production systems and lifestyles. It is not just a matter of hotels by the sea or deep-sea fishing.
For the EU – which is not a Blue competitor of China, but an area of possible integration of tasks and functions – the living resources of the sea still account for a mere 14% of all “Blue” jobs in the EU. It is, indeed, a very low percentage.
The extraction of metals from the seabed is scarce in the EU. It accounts for 4% of employment in the whole Blue sector.
Clearly this also includes oil and gas. And both sectors are declining in terms of profit and investment.
There are 600 active offshore platforms in the EU.
Shipyards account for 8% of employment in the sector, while the maritime product from seaweed processing is very low, with China already accounting for 46% of the world market and with only 6 EU projects currently active for aquatic biomass.
There are only 11 major desalination plants in the EU, mostly owned by large multi-sector companies.
Moreover, we should never neglect the coastal control of climate change, which can become a big global industry.
However, since the time of the report by the Club of Rome that, in 2009, invented the very concept of Blue Economy, his author, Pauli, has always stressed that the Blue Economy is part of the Green Economy – which is always a sustainable practice – and that it is based on new technologies.
And here we revert immediately to China.
China has always been particularly interested in the Blue economy and in technological innovations, with the construction of marine areas of economic innovation. Just think about the Blue Economy Zone of the Shandong Peninsula, established in 2011, where, four years later, an integrated marine economic system began, which in 2020 is expected to become a great mechanism of ecological Blue economy with a high rate of innovative technology.
In 2012, it was the turn of the Quingdao Blue Silicon Valley, a city for the new maritime scientific technologies.
Later China established other industrial areas for the protection of biodiversity and for new marine technologies, mainly in the Yangze River Delta.
Since China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the Blue Economy has been an ever-growing part of China’s GDP.
Hence, from the Deep-Sea Dragon, a system for producing experimental deep-sea and surface platforms.
There are also the White Dragon’s explorations in the Arctic, albeit with a future research base in the Antarctica, and the Global Multidimensional Network for Ocean Observation, i.e. the network of stations that can be connected to all the scientific, climate, technological and energy observation stations that already operate in other parts of the two thirds of the Planet, namely those covered with water.
We should also recall the collection and processing of minerals extracted from the seabed.
In this case, the international regulations are already very detailed, but it is currently very hard to predict the aggregate effects, which are mutually reinforcing and with unpredictable percentages.
Nor should we neglect the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS), which is one of the 11 associations in the world that scientifically study the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).
It initially regards the Great Lakes region between the USA and Canada, but it is also much studied in China.
And the network of Chinese marine sensors will certainly be connected to the large areas of global verification and study.
Hence the problem will increasingly be to control both internal and external waters at the same time.
With specific reference to the Chinese political practice, the 2018 great reform of the State Council, which placed sustainable development at the core of China’s planning, was decisive.
Since then, there has been a Minister for Natural Resources responsible for all land and sea natural areas, as well as for the economic use of land and for the protection and rehabilitation of the most endangered areas or of the already polluted ones.
While in almost all Western countries these powers and responsibilities are divided between various Ministries and Administrations, in China the already efficient chain of command is in the hands of a single political body and of a single Minister. The maximum efficiency for a chain of command.
Moreover, China is currently going through a particular phase: from the fast and traditional development to an even faster one, albeit characterized by high environmental, social, ecological and technological quality.
A new “development way”, which does not imitate Western traditions, but places science and technology into a new vertical and fast political system.
In the Taoist philosophical tradition, to which Mao Zedong essentially belonged, quality and quantity are not always separated in reality and can be analysed, but only through multiple analogies.
Said analogies never stop and cannot be logically separated.
Still today, this is the basis of the political and economic action of the Chinese Party and State.
Not an ordinary imitation of capitalism, but new and free efficiency of a technical-scientific network that is directed with market criteria of mutual interest, completely open to controls.
Hence development based on technology but, above all, on the protection of the environment and therefore of human and animal life, as well as of the life of the elements – and all at the same time.
Once again, the Taoist tradition.
Obviously the protection from pollution is central to the Chinese Blue Economy project. Just think about the project for the ecologization of the Bohai Sea, started in November 2018 – a three-year plan that will lead to the stable cleaning of 73% of all the Bohai Sea coasts.
Rapidity, efficiency and no operational difference between environmental recovery activities and actions to make income from the sea.
In essence, China’s Blue System is divided into two sectors, albeit always interconnected: development of innovative scientific and technological products related to the sea economy, and later, during and after the process, the integrated protection of the environment.
Again to compare China with the European Blue Economy policies, it should be recalled that the EU seas host about 48,000 different species, while the Chinese seas cover an area of approximately 6 million square kilometres, ranging from tropical to temperate climate and up to the Great Cold climate areas.
There are as many as 32,000 kilometres of Chinese coastline, with 22,629 species belonging to 46 phyla.
Data not comparable with those of the Mediterranean, but certainly able to permit, from the very beginning, large economies of scale.
In the EU the per capita yearly consumption of fish is 24 kilos, compared to 41 kilos in China.
It should be reiterated that China has already reached the highest levels of ocean fishing, both in terms of volumes and technologies, outside and inside its territorial waters. Moreover, technologies and economic returns can be useful to everyone.
Worldwide, the actions known as Our Ocean, started by Secretary of State Kerry in 2014, have led in the West only to 36 marine actions to the tune of 550 million euros, and to other commitments, albeit not yet funded, resulting from the 2018 Bali Conference.
Only 64 million euros were allocated for the Mediterranean, and 37.5 million for the South African and Indian Ocean coasts.
Obviously this is positive, but it should be recalled that Chinese investment is already much higher and not only due to the very large size of China’s Blue Area.
Last year the Chinese ocean GDP grew by 6.7%, thus reaching 9.3% of China’s total GDP. In 2018, 17.2 billion yuan were invested in the production of offshore renewable energy.
Excellent data, but this is just the beginning.
An additional 5.5% has been recorded for Chinese maritime transport, while the average yield of traditional fishing is slightly declining. Maritime tourism has already grown by 8.3% in China.
An excellent rate, not even comparable with the rate in the EU, where tourism is one of the fastest growing sector in the Euro-Mediterranean Blue Economy.
Furthermore, while – without any particular use of advanced technology -the Blue Economy in the EU is still largely a possibility, in China it is already a well-established reality.
As the philosopher and sinologist Jullien would say, possibility and reality are the same image, albeit seen in two different ways, but not necessarily at two different moments.
Currently tourism accounts for 61% of jobs in the EU Blue Economy. As we can see, it is an old business with a low average return.
The EU aquaculture is still a small sector compared to China’s huge size and technology, even in proportion to the population, but all the sustainable ocean exploitation programmes in Europe are postponed to an indefinite future and are at risk of funding.
Renewable marine energies will reach 10% of European consumption in 2050-a percentage which already pales into insignificance compared to the Chinese ones.
Apart from bureaucratic and administrative efficiency, with the Chinese Blue Economy we are already on another planet. The Chinese scientists are already thinking about a Blue Economy divided into three major areas: the resolution of water scarcity;the search for deep waters and the cleaning of surface waters.
They are also thinking about technological innovation, which is scarcely pursued in the EU. China has already developed 100 projects, for 10 years, with 100 million new jobs. All these projects have already begun.
Finally, in China there will be an integrated marine economy between research and the balanced exploitation of resources.
In particular, the development sectors that China currently likes are deep-sea aquaculture with the use of cages; ocean satellite communication, which is optimal; marine biomedicine; desalination with advanced technologies; the search for minerals in the seabed; offshore oil exploration; research into marine antiseptic and medical materials; the production of renewable energies at sea.
It is in these areas that China’s greatest ten-year effort will develop.
The management of the Chinese sea is based on a simple concept: the ecological absorption capacity of the seas.
Protection is based on the criterion of sustainable development, not on the circular economy with a zero return rate. Everything is designed to reduce environmental waste.
Moreover, sustainable development between land and sea -which is another specific issue for China – will be the development and not just the preservation and conservation of coasts.
The primary concept for doing all these things together is Harmony, a Confucian criterion that relates Man to his Environment.
Hence coordinated development between economy and society.
This is the same deep criterion of the “Silk Road”: a harmonious, global and strategic project that works only with market rules and is connected to a win-win logic, which ensures benefits to everybody.
According to the latest data available, in China the companies related to the Blue Economy have grown at a pace ranging from 14% to 4%.
For the time being, the regions directly concerned are the following: Zhejang, which is responsible for implementing the “Maritime Strategy of the East Sea” and focuses on ports and island economies.
Then there are Guangdong, which hosts the companies operating in the integrated management of the maritime economy; Fujian, where cooperation through the straits is pursued; Shandong, which develops the “Blue Economy Zone of the Peninsula” to create a primary gateway to North East Asia, and finally Tianjin, where high-level maritime technology is put into practice.
As early as 2001, 14.46 million people have already been employed in the Chinese Blue Economy, with a one million increase every year.
The cooperation with Western companies is already in place both at financial level, so as to share cutting-edge technologies, and for the participatory development of regions and companies.
Furthermore, the Chinese Smart Ocean programme also envisages a network of sensors on the coasts, at sea, in flight and in the space.
All this is designed to build a complete real-time monitoring system of all China’s seas and rivers – a network that should connect to the equivalent systems in other parts of the globe.
A turtle strategy that, according to Chinese tradition, epitomizes the North and the Waters, but is also invulnerable, due to its powerful shell.
Connectivity now. Boosting flows of people, information, energy, goods and services
On April 8, St Petersburg hosted the 12th Northern Dimension Forum. This forum, established in 2007, is a major annual corporate business event for cooperative policy and brings business directors and potential investors from Russia and the European Union including the Baltics, and Scandinavia.
The forum was organized by the Northern Dimension Business Council in cooperation with the Association of European Businesses, the Graduate School of Management at St Petersburg State University and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management.
This forum was devoted to the theme: “Connectivity now. Boosting flows of people, information, energy, goods and services.” It was attended by over 400 representatives of Russian and foreign business circles, government agencies and scientific, education and non-governmental organizations.
Leading business experts of the partnerships of the Northern Dimension, the Institute and the Association of European Businesses discussed topical issues and opportunities for promoting cooperation in environmental protection, the circular economy, energy efficiency, transport and logistics, healthcare digitization, efforts to overcome the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic and creative industries.
As expected, the forum helps to take another major step forward in discussing many strategic spheres of business between Russia and those regions. There were plenary meetings as well as sessions working groups. Despite the contradictory signals between Russia and the European Union, it was another opportunity to have some fruitful dialogue, especially in the current difficult conditions, – develop solutions on a wide range of cooperation issues in the North of Europe.
On the other hand, business institutions and the entire system of economic relations are still evolving for these years, indicating that there is no alternative to reasonable cooperation. It is however necessary to find common business language in the fields and other spheres of crucial importance for international cooperation.
Russian Foreign Ministry’s report pointed out to a diversified and multifaceted nature of regional cooperation in Northern Europe. It said the important components include the programs of cross-border and interregional cooperation between Russia and EU countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden), plus Norway.
There are programs underway within the framework of the current budget cycle that involves over 500 Russian project partners, and new programs are being prepared for the next seven-year period.
They reaffirmed their willingness to broaden versatile and mutually beneficial cooperation for the sustainable development of Europe. It emerged from a number of reports during the forum that trade and economic relations are now remarkably expanding between the European Union and Russia.
Over the years, the business growth has been driven by the efforts of the business community. This has also to do with the quality of economic exchanges and investment, businesses’ interest in expanding to new markets, and their confidence that these markets provide drivers for economic growth. Admittedly, trade decreased for various reasons since 2013, it then reached $417 billion, but later shrank to a mere $200 billion.
North Macedonia’s Journey to the EU
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s new cabinet is confronted with a number of economic challenges, exacerbated by the economic hit to the global economy caused by the pandemic In 2021, North Macedonia will take economic decisions that will shape the course of the country’s future.
The issues Skopje faces
Despite a modest population of 2-million, North Macedonia repeatedly makes headlines, often due to apparently intractable disputes with neighbouring countries. Athens’s trade embargo imposed on North Macedonia in the 1990s marked the start of a 27 year deadlock between the two countries, which ultimately stalled North Macedonia’s accession to the EU. Only recently did Skopje resolve the dispute with neighbouring Greece over its official name which Greece had previously taken issue with due to the fact that ‘Macedonia’ is also a region of Greece, and the use of this name was interpreted by Greece to be an assertion of territorial ambitions in the region.
This dispute affected the country’s other diplomatic ventures. In 1999, North Macedonia was one of the first post-Yugoslav signatories of the NATO membership action plan, only to have its accession vetoed by Greece in 2008. Ultimately, North Macedonia’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU has not been the diplomatic catalyst that Skopje hoped would ease localised tensions and draw it into a closer relationship with Brussels.
Under the leadership of Nikola Gruveski (2006-2016), corruption and state capture were endemic in North Macedonia. Gruveksi was averse to opening negotiations with mainstream governments in Greece and it was not until the centre-left Social Democratic Union of Macedonia ousted Gruveski out of power, that there was a breakthrough. Gruveski’s successor, Zoran Zaev, capitalised on Greek Prime Minister Tsipras’s reformism to broker the controversial Prespa Agreement which settled the name dispute. Two years later, North Macedonia was finally admitted to NATO, demonstrating that Greece was the final hurdle to NATO membership.
A tamed economy
However, North Macedonia soon found that NATO membership was not a passport to joining the EU. Internal ethnic tensions have created friction with EU member states. Relations with Bulgaria soured during the election campaign for July 2020 during which the campaigns of both main political parties played on anti-Bulgarian sentiment..Zaev managed to gain power by agreeing to a coalition with the main part of the Albanian minority. The new cabinet’s economic hurdles, specifically fiscal redistribution, could be exacerbated by renewed ethnic tensions between the Slav majority and the Albanian minority. Should tensions reach the levels of the 2001 civil conflict, the deepening of this fracture would slow down reforms and deter investments.
Bouncing back after the fall
The Balkan countries suffered greatly during the Great Recession due to their proximity to the Greek economy at a time when Athens navigated the worst slowdown of recent history. As Greece’s second largest export partner, the RNM was particularly hard hit(Figure 3a). The region had barely entered recovery before lockdown measures crippled world economic growth
. In addition, North Macedonia’s small internal market is heavily reliant on external demand which the crisis has depleted. In Q1-Q2 2020, exports fell by 22.3% and industrial production by 14.6% compared to the same period of the previous year. Thus, GDP fell by 14.9% in Q2 of 2020 and another 3.3% in Q3 contrary to the projected 3.2 percent growth (Figure 7). Whilst forecasts suggest growth of 5.5% in 2021, the unpredictability of the pandemic’s economic influence may yet compromise this figure.
Meanwhile, rating agencies downgraded North Macedonia’s national debt, in turn raising financing costs. the RNM’s debt was downgraded by some rating agencies, raising financing costs. Fitch, the American credit rating agency, as well as Moody’s, another US-based credit rating agency, both value North Macedonia’s debt as a non-recommended investment asset to be reserved for short-term gain. Since May 2020 the outlook has been negative, suggesting the situation will worsen. Yet, with one of the comparatively smallest debt-GDPs of the region, these ratings are still the best in South-Eastern Europe after Bulgaria meaning the RNM has a relatively solid economic base (Figure 4).
The country’s effective response to the pandemic is in part the reason that North Macedonia is economically stronger than some of its neighbours. The caretaker government introduced a furlough scheme, worth approximately 5.5 percent of GDP, as well as a helicopter money initiative. Going forward, the government is prioritising policies that will stimulate economic growth such as slashing parafiscal charges and cutting VAT. Yet, since North Macedonia lacks the economic resources to commit to long-term reform, recovery will be slow.
North Macedonia’s Shifting Demographics
North Macedonia is contending with mass emigration in tandem with declining fertility rates (Figure 5) — both of which reduce human capital. The official estimate of two-million residents is dubitable, with some experts hypothesising an actual figure of approximately 1.5 million. Inaccurate projections of a state’s total population jeopardises effective government decision making. In the RNM, where the resources are redistributed amongst ethnic groups pro quota, this makes fiscal management particularly difficult. If, for example, the proportion of Albanians of the total population was lower than estimated, then this group will be receiving more public resources that they are entitled to.
Given that the EU acts in a starkly-protectionist way by restricting trade with third countries, greater cooperation is in the RNM’s interest. In fact, Brussels could reduce trade barriers in the context of a stronger association with Skopje even before the latter formally joins the Union.
There are steps the government can take to encourage citizens not to emigrate . The first and most crucial step would be to improve the education system. Overall, North Macedonia spends much less of its GDP than the average EU country on education. As a result, few people complete their secondary-level education, and therefore either end up in low-paying jobs or unemployed, andare forced to emigrate. Another step would be investment in the underfunded Research and Development (R&D) sector. In fact, North Macedonia’s budget allocates only 0.36% of GDP to R&D, compared to an EU average of 2.2% and neighbouring Bulgaria’s 0.77%. Research and development is essential to creating high-paying jobs, driving productivity, and boosting the economy through innovation and market competition.
Infrastructures as the drive for future growth
The silver lining in North Macedonia’s economic strategy is infrastructure development. This especially true for roads and highways. Grueveski’s administration was instrumental in the investment into road infrastructure, starting works for two new highways in 2014.
Still, roads can be rather useless if they do lead nowhere. Thus come trade infrastructures. In addition to new road, the building of new border checkpoints and crossing points with Greece and Bulgaria, will bolster the trade infrastructure that North Macedonia shares with the EU, thereby driving trade with a global economic powerhouse. These investments will also reduce the RNM’s dependence on the Yugoslav-time north-south arteries, which currently present a barrier for the development of the “functioning market economy” that is a requirement for EU membership. To achieve this goal, the RNM needs to improve, road connections towards the west (with Albania) and the east (with Bulgaria, an important trading partner). Building better connections within the country and with non-Yugoslav neighbours will boost the country’s internal cohesion by making it easier to move from one part of the country to another proving supplemental infrastructures to foster international trade.
Figure 6 Highways represent a key segment of the RNM’s investments.
A secondary and related benefit of improving connectedness with EU trade routes is reduced economic dependence on Russia. This should reduce Moscow’s potential diplomatic leverage in future disputes in the region. As a matter of fact, pulling out of Moscow’s orbit is almost a precondition to full membership in the EU — which would bring in more funding opportunity and increase financial stability. Yet, Russia’s main asset is not trade tout court, but energy. In fact, the Balkans serve as a strategic crossroad for oil and gas coming from Moscow and Baku through Bucharest and Ankara. Thus, North Macedonia should also consider developing its energy infrastructure as a route to closer integration with the EU. In order to reduce the Western Balkan’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, the region needs investments. For cash-strapped countries, like North Macedonia, the opportunity to make real progress in this field may come from ‘green’ funds the EU has earmarked for energy projects in both current member states and candidate countries . In addition, Greece has established an LNG terminal on the Aegean to which links the RNM is planning to adjoin its grid. There are also talks of an electric-grid link to Albania, through which the RNM could import as much as needed and even export eventual surpluses.
Forecast: The RNM can make it… with some help
Without radical reform, the extant corruption, bureaucracy and public-sector inefficiency will stymy growth in the coming years. Luckily, the EU might be the answer to Skopje’s economic woes. The Union is expected to grant €3.3 billion to Western-Balkan countries to kickstart economic recovery following the pandemic. The package does however come with strings attached: the country will have to accelerate progress towards regulatory harmonisation with the EU. This is a notoriously difficult and resource-consuming task, which may hinder other reforms.
Furthermore, North Macedonia must confront pre-pandemic economic struggles. The government could revert to coalition infightings and therefore prolong the process of economic reform. For investors, a cautious approach is recommended, in preparation for positive economic developments.
Acknowledgments The Author thanks Charlotte Millington, parliamentary researcher at the UK House of Commons specialising in European politics and international security for her suggestions.
How to incorporate the environment in economic ventures for a sustainable future?
We are in the phase of world history where economic development and protection of environment must go side by side. People living in the developed part of the world will hardly want to give up their current lifestyle and people living in the developing part want to be more like the developed but in this process, we cannot separate environment from economy. Environment provides the incentive for economic growth and prosperity; providing the raw materials and resources we need for production of goods, certain climates and temperatures are required for the growth of specific plants and are very crucial to agriculture industry and the environment is what absorbs the pollution and waste we produce from all this industrialization. Protection of the environment means we mark ourselves safe from economic degradation and provide safe space for healthy functioning of economic and social activities. If we preserve the environment we control the risks of drought, heat waves, cold spells and floods, regulate the air quality, the temperature, the climate, the clean supply of water, the contamination of soil, cycling of nutrients in the ecosystem and management of carbon. Since agriculture can be regarded as the primary industry, crucial to feed people, people who then operate other industries, it is very important to safeguard the environment that feeds us and nurtures us and the environment that we live and grow in. Today, the world economy is facing serious environmental hazards. Climate change, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems are some of the global problems that need immediate collective action by states since this issue engulfs the whole of mankind. Therefore, economists and environmentalists have in the recent years taken this subject with full zest. How can economic growth and environmental protection go hand in hand? Environmental policies integrated with economic policies can be implemented and pursued by states to ensure sustained and prolonged environmental human well-being and continued simultaneous economic growth for states both at the national and international level, ending in a win-win situation.
Natural resources are salient to economic development but at present many prime resources and ecosystems are depleting which poses a grave situation for states and their economies. To tackle this concern, natural resources need to be used in a reasonable manner and adopting and improving technology be propagated in such a way that the use of natural resources is made more efficient and long lasting. Use of newer and modern product designing which meets the needs of the current times, needs to inculcated. The consumption of natural resources beyond the point that hampers economic growth also needs to be avoided. The vitality of technology and innovation in limiting environmental hazards is being stressed, this is also beneficial for businesses and industrialization. This is because preservation of environment is itself a form of economic development and growth. People who come up with the ideas and engineering for environmental friendly products; such as the water and air pollution control, treatment and purification technologies, make money and businesses out of these services, thus contributing to the economy. Similarly, wind mills and solar systems are now a multimillion-dollar business themselves. If environment protection is putting some older technologies and practices out of work, it is also creating incentives for modern technologies and creating more job opportunities in the field. States should thus, make an industrial shift to equipment and products that have a low carbon usage and efficiently use resources. In the real estate sector, places with better and healthier environment and surroundings are priced more than other counterparts for example, a building next to a park or green belt will have higher value than a property which is not next to any place green. This points to the concept of “hedonic pricing.” It refers to the difference in pricing due to the associated environmental aspects, in otherwise similar products. Better environment also contributes to the development of human capital. The presence of a green park will not only add to beauty and better air quality but it will also encourage a lot of people to physically exercise.
Due to the growing scarcity of resources, governments of the world should introduce the policy of “common property regime,” which avers that resources such as land, water, certain habitats and the atmosphere be made common property for all. The problem is that there are no property laws for these resources and people use it as a free dump for human waste and waste products from economic activities. This includes various water bodies for example, irrigation systems and canals, forests, fishing areas etc. Concise and clearly enforced rules should be put in place, exercising the limits put on some activities such as excessive fishing or cutting of forests, putting a limit on the accessibility to these resources, keeping a check on the carbon footprint of some groups, organizations or events or even putting some specifications on their use such as tax or making recycling or reuse mandatory. The shift from already existing practices to newer ones that are more environment-friendly will be costly and it will take time but it is more important now than ever and more beneficial for us in the long run. Environment policies of these sorts reframe the economic structure. The cost of using these resources should be closed in according to the social cost of putting the health of the public at risk. Restructuring of the economic and environmental structure helps a country’s economy by lessening the environmental hazards that the country might face and by making the state more buoyant and resilient in the face of these environmental changes and risks. This can also prove to be a powerful driving force for innovations and ideas.
States are often in the race to increase their GDP. GDP only measures the material values of goods and services and does not take into account the well-being of humans including the health and education quality, living standards, income and environmental conditions. Economic growth, nonetheless, is a prime force for improving human well-being and states incorporate social, political and environmental goals in the well-being domain through these economic activities. The Kuznets curve is a graph to explain the relationship between the growth in economy/GDP and the quality of environment. States can keep this model in mind while reformulating their economic and environmental policies, in accordance to the history of environmental degradation they have endured and the future remodelling they need to follow. It is characterized by an inverted U-shaped relation between GDP per capita and environmental quality. Since we have already crossed the point for environmental degradation, it is now time to think for the decline in the degradation. Initially, when the GDP grows, so does the degradation of environment but after a certain point, the increase in GDP no longer degrades the environment further. This is because at lower income levels, the income is completely spent on meeting the basic survival requirements. When the income increases to a certain point, people and states should start thinking of the bargain that material does with the environment, this should be reflected in their behavioural change. After this point, states should start giving up further unnecessary consumption and focus more on environmental rehabilitation. Another possibility seen through this graph is that industries might see profit in enhancing production quickly, but as demands are met and resources become scarcer, more green, cleaner and resource efficient technology is introduced. Societies, in this way, also go from agriculture-based economy to manufacturing-based economy and finally to service-based economies, releasing the lowest levels of pollution. An example can be of EU rules and regulations. Waste water used to get dumped directly into the streams or rivers, but now it gets treated first before releasing. There are barely any housings left in the EU now that are not connected to solid and water waste disposal and treatment networks.
If states and the firms operating in those states take up eco-innovations and eco-friendly measures, they will actually be at advantage because investors like banks and various funding institutes are more likely to invest in sustainable businesses that will stay operational a long time, than those that are dependent on the environment in these challenging times. Firms that run on eco-friendly terms will also stay ahead of the taxes and regulations charged on using environmental resources. This will prove to be very cost efficient for them and they will not have to change their action plans according to any new regulations or increases in costs. Greener and cleaner practices and equipment can also truly reduce the waste an industry produces, in turn increasing the output and ensuring sustainability. This adaptation to cleaner practices can also lead to innovations and new ideas and practices starting right from the household or individual level. UK is one of the countries that is high on the ranks of eco-innovations, thanks to general understanding and cooperation among firms to pursue sustainable development. Furthermore, statistics show that companies that are currently focusing more eco-innovations are growing at the rate of 15% annually while their counterparts that are not focusing on the same, are not enjoying any climb in their profits. Most of these businesses (based in Europe) are small to medium scaled and they are adaptable in nature. They are benefitting from the European commission’s stance on promoting eco-friendly businesses. Public Relations advantages and marketing superiority is also pretty clear in eco-innovation ventures.
A commendable example of improving the environmental conditions while also not compromising on the GDP and economic development, is that of China. China has been time and again accused of having a huge carbon footprint, which directly impacts the ozone layer which is communal to all mankind. States that are not even at par with the fumes and industrial waste that China produces, are today in the list of states most affected by climate change and global warming, including Pakistan and many of the Gulf nations. China has thus taken the role of global leadership in the field of environmental protection. China has been standing true to its 2015 Paris agreements on cutting down of greenhouse emissions. It was able to do so by spreading awareness and education from the grass-root level. In the period of only a few years, China has drastically improved the air quality in many of its larger cities. Solid waste management and sorting is a major step taken to restrict illegal dumping of garbage. Restrictive policies and heavy fines are imposed if an individual breaks the rules. Renewable energy generators like the wind and solar panels, have been put to use to meet nationwide energy requirements, which ensures cost effective power. In the year 2017, China nationally introduced the concept of “National emissions trading system,” which formed a market for the buying and selling of carbon dioxide emissions allowances. It regulates the quantity of emissions and carbon footprints that an individual, firm or an event is allowed to produce. All of this simultaneously helps China to become more energy sufficient and assists economic reforms while also improving the quality of ground-level air. Some states in the USA are taking up the initiative of green or clean economy with full fervour. California for example, set a target to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2045, while the clean energy sector is also opening opportunities for jobs. One of the incentive taken in the goal was stricter vehicle exhaust emission rules.Nevada also passed a legislation to increase the energy it makes to up to 50% through renewable energy sources, by the year 2030. Rules and regulations have also bene proposed to reduce the emission of harmful air pollutants including those that are short-lived such as methane, CFCs and HFCs. Developing countries like Pakistan have also addressed the climate issue and the Pakistan Premier launched the “Billion Tree Tsunami” plantation campaign to curb deforestation, an issue rampant in the north of the country. In conclusion of this paper, in light of all the examples and recommendations, I would say that the long term benefits, mutual to all, outweigh the costs of taking a leap from existing economic practices to those that are eco-friendlier.
“Eco-innovation for better business,” Business Green, accessed October 23, 2020, https://www.businessgreen.com/sponsored/2409410/eco-innovation-for-better-business
 “California Air Quality: Mapping the progress,” U.S News. November 6, 2019.https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2019-11-06/california-air-quality-mapping-the-progress
Chandler Green. “7 ways US states are leading climate action,” United Nations Foundation. May 30, 2019, https://unfoundation.org/blog/post/7-ways-u-s-states-are-leading-climate-action/
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