Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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Croatia has the potential to become a Blue Economy champion in the EU

Croatia’s coast and sea are key national assets that contribute significantly to the country’s economy and give Croatia a competitive edge as an attractive tourism destination. According to the World Bank, the tourism sector alone contributes 20 per cent to Croatia’s GDP.

Yet, as a semi-enclosed sea, the Adriatic is becoming increasingly vulnerable to impacts from economic activities, including a rapidly growing environmental footprint from the tourism industry. Moreover, climate change is likely to further exacerbate these effects.

“Aware of the environmental pressure that tourism, with its unquestionable benefits for the economy, put on on water and the sea as key components of the environment, we are grateful to the World Bank for encouraging the discussion on the importance of the blue economy for Croatia,  the opportunities for funding of certain segments of the blue economy and possible further steps,” commented Elizabeta Kos Director of the Directorate for Water Management and Sea Protection at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Croatia, following an online workshop co-organised with the World Bank and entitled Investing in a Sustainable Blue Economy in Croatia.

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Mrs Kos mentioned that in order to reduce this pressure, the Ministry is implementing a number of water supply and sanitation projects.

“So far, within the Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020 Operational Programme, a total of 60 water supply and sanitation projects worth 25.78 billion kunas [approximately 3.4 billion euros] have been financed […]. A significant part of these funds relates to projects in the Adriatic part of Croatia, taking into account the sustainability of Croatian tourism.”

A Blue Economy model involves sustainable use of maritime resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the natural capital of the oceans, seas and coasts. The Blue Economy model is at the forefront of the sustainability agenda globally and part of the European Green Deal, aimed at helping European Union members meet their economic needs while addressing their sustainability goals, including climate change adaptation.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting the Government of Croatia’s efforts to protect the country’s natural capital, address climate vulnerabilities and reduce the energy intensity of the economy,” said Jehan Arulpragasam, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia. “Croatia has the potential to become a Blue Economy champion in the EU, where it has the highest relative contribution of the blue economy to the national gross value added and employment and the World Bank stands ready to support Croatia with its global knowledge to achieve this goal.”

To assess the challenges Croatia faces, a recent World Bank report on the cost of environmental degradation (CoED) in Croatia estimated economic and social costs of environmental degradation of Croatia’s marine and coastal assets due to loss of ecosystem services, inadequate waste and wastewater management, marine litter, air pollution and the environmental impacts of tourism.

For example, the loss of ecosystem services, which provide vital services and are the foundation for economic growth, including for the tourism industry, is estimated at 90 million euros annually. Marine litter causes additional costs to port operations estimated at 20 million euros or more annually, while insufficient treatment of waste and water pollution from the tourism sector is estimated to cost 55 million euros per year.

“Oceans, seas and coasts offer great opportunities for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in fisheries, aquaculture, mariculture, coastal tourism, marine biotechnology, and renewable energy,” noted Kseniya Lvovsky, Practice Manager at the World Bank Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy for Europe and Central Asia. “They also play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and in enhancing climate resilience of coastal areas. Sustainable management of marine and coastal resources requires collaboration across industries, public and private sectors and nations.”

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