ESG and Climate Risk Science and Technology

Ongoing strategic challenges and how SDGs along with UDA framework can help

  • People, Economy, and Nature are the three inseparable components and the policy makers need to find the right balance
  • Ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the subsequent collapse of the supply chain and energy crisis has impacted the entire global economy
  • The UDA framework, by design, encourages pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts across the stakeholders
  • UDA Framework builds efficiency in resource utilization and optimizes the governance mechanism
  • The developing nations are struggling to prioritize the socio-economic requirements and thus, not able to invest on long term sustainable development goals


The global community is going through a massive churn and there is necessity to view the current strategic challenges from a nuanced perspective. The so-called rush for economic growth has brought us to a point of massive sustainability concern and more importantly climate change risk. Massive infrastructure investments could come to knots, in the face of extreme climate events. Corporates have to recognize that for the long-term wellbeing of their businesses, aspirations of the people involved and the nature have to be aligned. People, Economy, and Nature are the three inseparable components and the policy makers need to find the right balance.

The Indo-Pacific Region has emerged as the most critical strategic space among the global powers. The Indo-Pacific strategic space is the tropical waters of the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. The region is also marked by unique political, economic, and ecological realities. The political reality pertains to the pre-modern states with governance mechanisms, still evolving. The extra-regional powers can influence the domestic politics and keep these nations dependent on them. The developing nations are struggling to prioritize the socio-economic requirements and thus, not able to invest on long term sustainable development goals. The tropical waters are known for their rich biodiversity and massive undersea mineral reserves. The ongoing electric vehicle transition and the corresponding battery requirement, has pushed up the demand for rare earth elements.

"The undersea domain in the tropical region is known for their abundance in rare earth minerals and poly-metallic modules. The vast resource potential and the weak governance mechanism, is a recipe for disaster. The dependence on the extra-regional powers, further complicates the sustainable growth model."

The demographic distribution in the region is another factor that merits attention, while formalizing the future course of action. The region has the highest population density, and the population is young & aspirational. However, most of these young people are not appropriately skilled and aware, thus end up being exploited and are unable to achieve their full potential. Many misguided youths get trapped in unlawful activities and become a security and sustainability threat for the region and their nation. The volatile political situation also gives rise to security concerns, both internally and externally. The governments, thus end up spending huge budget on security forces, rather than building long term mechanisms for achieving sustainable development goals.

The new global order, seems to be tilting away from the globalized world. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the subsequent collapse of the supply chain and energy crisis has impacted the entire global economy. It has also created sharp divide among the global powers, to trigger heightened competition and confrontation on varied political and economic dimensions. The global commons have become a theatre for competition and confrontation, with weaponization of basic resources like food, energy, water, climate and more, becoming the norm.

"The biggest danger that many of us fail to understand is that the perpetrators could themselves become the victims. The United Nations (UN) declared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are an urgent call for action, both for the developed and the developing world. The seventeen SDGs, are a well-articulated framework to address the dynamics of people, economy, and nature. However, the specific issues of the underwater domain, both in the marine as well as freshwater systems, do not get addressed comprehensively. Given that 75% of universe is covered underwater (including the ice cover), the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA), deserves far more attention. It may be important to acknowledge that the UDA requires specialized expertise of acoustic capacity and capability. "

The UDA framework, by design, encourages pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts across the stakeholders and thus builds efficiency in resource utilization and optimizes the governance mechanism. The fragmentation across the stakeholders within the nations and the region can be optimally handled with the effective implementation of the UDA framework.

Considering the SDGs and their realization through the UDA framework is discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.

SDG-1 (No Poverty)  :  The sustainable blue economy has unimaginable growth potential, and the opportunities it is likely to provide for the next generation will have massive impact on the poverty alleviation. The GDP growth as a result, will be instrumental in ensuring no poverty across the globe.

SDG-2 (Zero Hunger)  : The global community is increasingly looking towards the blue oceans for food security. The biomass from the oceans and other freshwater systems is a great source of food for humans and the animals on land.

SDG-3 (Good Health & Well Being)  : The pharma the wellness industry are highly dependent of the oceans and the other underwater resources for their raw material. The quantity and quality that is available underwater, has massive potential.

SDG-4 (Quality Education) :  The education system must bring real world sense into the next generation. The 75% of the earth is underwater and we have very little understanding of the deep ocean and other underwater systems.

SDG-5 (Gender Equality)  :  The enhanced prosperity and good quality of education will bring gender equality in good measure. The traditional practices among the coastal & riverine communities will give way to more digital transformation with higher deployment of science & technology tools, operated both by men and women in equal measure.

SDG-6 (Clean Water & Sanitation) :  The enhanced governance mechanism in the underwater domain, will bring effective management of the freshwater resources and ensure clean water and sanitation. Enhanced freshwater management, driven by the UDA framework will bring far more efficiency and effectiveness.

SDG-7 (Affordable & Clean Energy) :  The deep ocean mission is critical for the sustainable extraction of rare earth elements, that are vital for the electric vehicle (EV) growth. The oceans and the water bodies are anyway a great source of green (read blue) energy, and will go a long way in ensuring affordable and clean energy sources.

SDG-8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth)  :  The digital transformation in the underwater domain will allow the coastal and the riverine communities to bring more dignity and economic returns to their traditional practices. The unimaginable potential of the sustainable blue economy will anyway bring growth and prosperity.

SDG-9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure)  :  The sustainable blue economy is being recognized as the next big opportunity. The scope for innovation and institutionalization is huge and thus, the corporates have started investing big resources for infrastructure development and building industry scale enterprises.

SDG-10 (Reduced Inequality)  :  There will be equal opportunity across multiple barriers. The enhanced governance mechanism and overall well-being will allow policy interventions to reduce inequality with higher social consciousness. The water bodies connect far more effectively and efficiently, thus can democratize, resources and access in multiple ways.

SDG-11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities)  : The digital transformation and enhanced governance mechanism will encourage sustainable cities and communities. Given that majority of the global community resides close to the water bodies, the importance of the UDA cannot be over emphasized.

SDG-12 (Responsible Consumption and Production)  :  The digital transformation will bring transparency and good governance, thus the responsible consumption and production will be an obvious fall out. Abundance with good governance will minimize hoarding and overuse.

SDG-13 (Climate Action) :  The oceans and the water bodies are the natural regulators of the nature, thus it requires no emphasis to mention that they are our first frontiers for climate action. The digital construct backed by the UDA framework, will be the most effective tool for climate change assessment.

SDG-14 (Life below Water) :  This requires no elaboration as the life below water and their wellbeing is the direct indication of the ecosystem that exist around us, not limited to the underwater alone. The aspects of Acoustic Habitat Degradation, deserve focused attention, as sound is the only signal that propagates underwater and every human activity generates unimaginable amount of noise underwater.  

SDG-15 (Life on Land) :  The increasing stress on the land-based resources and ecosystems, is ensuring higher dependence on the oceans and the freshwater systems. The life on land can be effectively complemented by the underwater domain with effective awareness.

SDG-16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions)  : The digital transformation will allow efficiency and democratization of the entire governance mechanism. Effective governance is the key to peace, justice, and strong institutions.

SDG-17 (Partnerships for the Goals) :  The UDA framework by design encourages pooling of resources and synergizing of efforts. Thus, partnerships for the goals across varied stakeholders, will seamlessly happen with the effective realization of the UDA framework.

The current strategic challenges of energy crisis, economic recession, sustainability concerns, climate change risk, inequality (wealth & access), skilling & meaningful engagement for the masses and many more can be effectively managed. The digital transformation in the marine & freshwater systems, driven by the UDA framework will allow good governance and is the only way forward. 

Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das

About Author

Dr (Cdr) Arnab Das, Director and Founder of MRC, Pune. Dr Das is a former Naval officer with 2 decades of active services and PhD holder from IIT Delhi with specialization in Underwater Acoustics. He has worked on several projects and has a plethora of publications to his credit.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *