Grenada, the Spice Island, is leading the Eastern Caribbean toward a “blue economy,” and the World Bank has taken notice.
The World Bank recently released a report examining how the transition to a blue economy for countries in the Caribbean can simultaneously generate growth and help those countries gain greater resilience to external shocks by better preserving the ocean.
So what exactly is this notion of a blue economy?
“The concept of a ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth’ has gained wide currency in the world in recent decades. Common policy recommendations for this type of growth focus on better efficiency, new technologies, new markets, and the boosting of investor confidence,” states the report, titled “Toward a Blue Economy: A Promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean.”
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and a group of partners proposed to apply the concept of a green economy to the ocean before the Rio+20 summit in 2012, envisioning a “blue economy.” At the summit and afterward, the concept was discussed at length and in varying capacities.
Though there is still no one clear-cut definition of the term, the World Bank report says the Economist Intelligence Unit defines it as this: “A sustainable ocean economy emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy.”
The report expands on that definition, stating, “… the goal in applying the blue economy concept as a lens is to emphasize the connection between the ocean’s ecological systems and the human activity that takes place in the ocean economy. The concept recognizes that some activities in the ocean economy depend on the underlying ecological systems (the natural capital), while all have the potential to degrade them. Increasingly, policy frameworks seek to simultaneously expand the natural and the produced capital of the ocean. Essentially, the blue economy concept provides a lens through which to measure, identify, and encourage these types of opportunities, for a net benefit to the aggregate ocean economy and environment, consistent with principles of social equity and with a priority on poverty reduction.”
The Caribbean is the perfect place to implement this concept in a tangible way. Pawan Patil, World Bank Senior Economist and co-author of the report, explains.
“The Caribbean Sea represents a tremendous economic asset for the region not only in terms of high value natural resources such as fish stocks, oil and gas, but also as a global hotspot for marine diversity and tourism. Maintaining ocean health is synonymous with growing ocean wealth, and finding this balance is how we’ll be able to better invest in the Caribbean blue economy.”
Grenada has established itself as the first country in the Eastern Caribbean to develop a vision for blue growth as the way forward for the country’s future, and has also become a leader in the battle against climate change. The country has successfully developed a high value seafood export business to Martinique and the United States.
“Our Prime Minister has seen how important these tourism and fishing industries are for the people of Grenada, and is committed to ensuring that our oceans and environment are protected,” said Dr. Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the United States.
Supported by the World Bank, Eastern Caribbean countries adopted a regional action plan in 2013. In other parts of the world, Mauritius and the Seychelles have championed the strategy of a blue economy.
According to the World Bank report, Caribbean waters generated an estimated US$407 billion in 2012, an amount that represents more than 17 percent of Caribbean GDP. That figure comes chiefly from cargo shipped through the region, tourism and oil and gas production. In recent years, there has been a rise in revenues from aquaculture, but a decline for open sea capture fisheries.
“The report highlights the opportunities offered by the Caribbean blue economy and identifies priority areas for action that can generate blue growth and opportunities for all Caribbean people, while ensuring that oceans and marine ecosystems are sustainably managed and used,” said Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean.
The authors say the current state of play in the region suggests many interrelated priorities for polices that could carry the Caribbean toward a blue economy, guided by ocean principles.
• Develop and strengthen regional and national policies to better integrate the governance framework for the CaribbeanSea.
• Implement policies for a healthy, resilient and productive marine environment in the Caribbean.
• Provide education and raise awareness about the blue economy.
• Ensure maritime surveillance, monitoring and enforcement.
• Build the infrastructure for a blue economy.
• Support research and development for a blue economy.
• Support business development and sustainable finance.
To facilitate change, the authors suggest combining the above policy priorities with the following 10 ocean principles for investments in a Caribbean blue economy.
1) Sustainable development/sustainable livelihoods
2) Marine ecosystem health
3) Integrated ocean governance
4) Science-based, precautionary, and adaptive decision making
5) Duty of care and accountability
6) Inclusive and transparent decision making
7) Ecosystem-based management
8) Develop ocean solutions that will reduce climate change risks and allow the development of climate change-related opportunities
9) Sharing of benefits derived from the blue economy
10) The right to development
Some of the authors’ actionable recommendations for policymakers in the Caribbean include eco labels to promote sustainable fishing practices and/or aquaculture, environmentally friendly coastal hotels, offshore winds and other marine renewable energy systems.
“Creating a blue economy in the Caribbean will require major investments of capital and political will and take decades to complete,” the authors conclude. “But sticking with a business-as-usual approach risks the continued decline of a body of water that boasts not only great beauty but mammoth economic potential. The World Bank stands ready to work with governments and other actors to help bring the people of the Caribbean the full benefits of the blue economy.”
The analysis for the report was conducted in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.