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MŒA One-to-One Interviews: Dr Nathalie Hilmi, Head of the Environmental Economics Section at CSM.

Updated: Feb 10

Dr Nathalie Hilmi, Environmental Economy Specialist: Nature-Based Solutions of a basic new economic paradigm in harmony with natural processes.

Since 2010, she has been leading the Environmental Economics Section of the Scientific Centre of Monaco, the main research body of the Principality, on the basis of solid foundations in macroeconomics, international finance, strategic management and sustainable development. Dr Nathalie Hilmi is an expert of Macroeconomics and International Finance, acting as leading author for IPCC, the most authoritative international body science-based on climate change. In particular she contributes regularly to the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) and the Sixth Asessment Report (AR6).

In 2000, she achieved a PhD thesis with honours, following up a multi-annual relevant experience in research and lecturing at CEMAFI - Centre d’études en Macroeconomie et Finance Internationale within the University of Nice-Sophia-Antipolis (UNSA). Later on she started teaching at EDHEC Business School and at the University of Monaco as Professor of Macroeconomics and Finance with duty to do research. Extremely active in drafting technical articles and attending international conferences, training courses for executives, panels and summits, she is a member of several international associations in economics and finance and actively participates in the reviewing and editing of specialized publications.

After joining the Centre Scientifique de Monaco as Section Head of Environmental Economics, she implemented a tight collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency- IAEA Environment Laboratories, headquartered in Monaco, to push joined studies between environmental sciences and economics in order to improve the assessment of socioeconomic items including carbon-emission impacts and cost-benefit studies with comparison to the non-action scenario. In 2011, she successfully obtained her post-doctoral degree (HDR) with a study on the theme "a multidisciplinary approach of sustainable development".

MONACŒCOART® had the pleasure to interview Dr Nathali Hilmi to deepen the new trends on Nature-Based Solutions (NdS) balancing human economic interests with natural rhythms essential to ensure biodiversity and livable conditions on Planet Earth.



Photo >> Cover of the Outcomes of the Blue Economy Round Table 2023 © Centre Scientifique de Monaco

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MONACŒCOART®: Dr Nathalie Hilmi, the result of the first edition of the Blue Economy Round Table during the 2023 Monaco Ocean Week held on March the 22nd at the Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM) and organized by Centre Scientifique de Monaco and the Fundación Meri brought together experts, researchers, media, education and policy makers to address the critical issues of sustainable development in oceans management have produced a first action report. How did this synergy come about? Who is the document intended for? What are its objectives?

Dr Nathalie Hilmi: We are addressing firstly to scientists since the working group is largely composed of scientific experts. Notably, from the Centre Scientifique de Monaco where I am based. In the meantime, we are willing to spread the message to policy makers and the private sector like industry and the world of finance. The cooperation with Fundación Meri (note: Chilean Foundation focused on scientific research and education on natural ecosystems of South America), started within the workshop I organized in Monaco during the 2021 Monaco Ocean Week on the theme of Blue Carbon. On that occasion, they introduced their most recent project, the Blue Boat Initiative, an integrated system of high-tech buoys capable of generating scientific oceanographic data to monitor the state of health of whales whose role in capturing CO2 is crucial. Since then, we have been working closely in view of COP26, COP27 and we are preparing for COP28. By mutual will, we designed a specific Roundtable on Blue Carbon aimed at becoming a recurring annual meeting. We are currently centered on fishing, a fundamental pillar of the Blue Economy, with the objective to move towards with the support of experts in the related field. Meanwhile, we do believe in producing a final concise booklet for each topic addressed to decision makers, as we have just done for the 1st Blue Economy Roundtable held at the Yacht Club de Monaco on the 22nd March 2023. A scientific article is currently under construction involving available speakers who would like to add further elements to the debate.

Photo >> Panellists of the first edition of the Blue Economy Round Table held within the 2023 Monaco Ocean Week (Yacht Club de Monaco, 22nd March 2023) © Centre Scientifique de Monaco

MONACŒCOART®: Based on recent studies in which you have personally participated, it is reaffirmed that anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems endanger the survival of the balances of the oceans on which life depends. What actions do you consider crucial and urgent? Why?

Dr Nathalie Hilmi: Ocean has always played a pivotal role on regulating climate change effects thanks to its unique biodiversity. If the marine ecosystems enjoy good health also Planet Earth will be healthy. The balance among climate change, biodiversity and global oceans is on the spotlight in our roundtables. The emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) from human activities is one of the main risks. Thus, reducing GHG gases is prior as reiterated by the most recent report by IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be achieved through climate mitigation and adaptation. As for the latter, both local communities and various natural ecosystems must be able to adapt to the new extreme natural phenomena. As the pace of climate change is faster than expected, it is often difficult to be prepared. Therefore, the need to speed up the action plan. In fact, much has already been done, but it is not yet known whether the appropriate technology will be found, provided that Nature remains unpredictable and has been following its course as for centuries. I believe that we need to preserve Nature if we would like to safeguard our Planet. I am not referring only to natural beauty but by the capacity of Nature of capturing carbon dioxide, reducing the consequent increase in temperatures.

Photo >> Keynote speech by Francisca Cortés Solari, Executive President at Fundación MERI, philanthropist, conservationist, and entrepreneur, who is passionate about nature (Yacht Club de Monaco, 22nd March 2023) © Centre Scientifique de Monaco

MONACŒCOART®: The published booklet covers various aspects of the Blue Economy with a holistic approach at environmental, economic, governmental, financial and media dissemination and educational points of view. Which ones do you consider crucial?

Dr Nathalie Hilmi: I think that all aspects are to be considered primary, being extremely connected to each other. Natural Science is of course decisive as well as Economy grounded on possible actions to solve the identified problems with the help of policy-makers and the private sector, including financial players. These latter really have the ability to change the investments on fossil fuels directing them on renewable energies and any other Research & Development device able to reduce CO2 emissions. Moreover, education is not to be underestimated playing a key role in building up a better civil society. An adequate training of new generations to increase their eco-awareness is encouraging their chance to influence decision makers. However, everything starts from daily gestures such as reducing the consumption of goods from distant countries or decrease our consumption of meat while boosting a more circular way of conceiving the economy.

Photo >> Working groups presenting their insights: Towards a sustainable economy how to reconcile the market and marine ecosystem services (left side); Environmental Education: Ocean Literacy introduced by Dr Pernille Schnoor, Senior Researcher at World Maritime University (right side) - (Yacht Club de Monaco, 22nd March 2023) © Centre Scientifique de Monaco

MONACŒCOART®: How will you convey key messages and recommendations included the report? What role can the Principality of Monaco play as represented by the Scientific Centre?

Dr Nathalie Hilmi: We are being diffusing the contents through every possible tool including institutional and official websites as well as newsrooms and social media. Besides the Monaco Scientific Centre’s and Fundación Meri’s, the Gouvernment Princier and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Furthermore, I am going to convey the outcome of Blue Economy Roundtables via scientific fishing forums and the UN Conferences of the Parties (COP) I will attend in the near future. A targeted session will be then held at COP28 in close cooperation with Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. We have established a fruitful partnership with Monaco Oceanographic Institute in charge of dissemination of scientific results to the general public.

Photo >> Keynote speech by Prof Denis Allemand, Scientific Director at Centre Scientifique de Monaco (Yacht Club de Monaco, 22nd March 2023) © Centre Scientifique de Monaco

MONACŒCOART®: You have recently been appointed Member of the Local High Council for Climate and Biodiversity which will support the decision-making by the Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolis to manage the territory in light of the new challenges of climate change and other effects related to the human activity, what actions are you working on and what effects are expected in terms of improving the living conditions and respecting the natural ecosystem that surrounds the city of Nice?

Dr Nathalie Hilmi: The body is in fact at the service of a vast area, called “Métropole”, that goes beyond the city centre up to mountain areas. As for my personal commitment, I took part in round tables focused on biodiversity, having regard to the direct link with climate change, ocean and forest conservation. Assessing the costs and benefits of every action implemented by the Métropole is pivotal, considering that everything that brings well-being to the population and nature has a price. But this is not the only thing to focus on. Verifying the benefits is essential to have a complete idea and allow you to invest properly by including the evaluation of non-action. The delay in acting can in fact lead to raise follow-up costs. My role is then to advise decision makers trough an independent dialectic approach to identify the most effective choices.

Photo >> Presentation of the results of the working groups (Yacht Club de Monaco, 22nd March 2023) © Centre Scientifique de Monaco

MONACŒCOART®: Can you give us an overview of what will be the following steps of the Blue Economy RoundTable guidelines?

Dr Nathalie Hilmi: I will introduce them within a targeted session at the Fish Forum 2024, organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that will be held in Antalya (Turkey) in February 2024, I will attend the GFCM Forum on Fisheries Science in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea developing a variety of key topics related to fisheries with a special regard to the Mediterranean Basin. The COP28, held at Expo City Dubai at the end of November 2023 will be a privileged stage where to present the booklet, hoping it will allow to give a more decisive impetus in meeting commitments to reduce the effects of climate change, although the latest scenarios are not encouraging in terms of global warming. A new and more realistic target would therefore be desirable, shared by all Member States, besides proposing ideally a joint Conference both on Climate Change and the Fight against Biodiversity Loss (currently divided). ***


By Maurice Abbati

Springer International Publishing

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