Global economies are being redefined, not only regarding size or stage of development but also with respect to ocean and coastal resources. The Blue Economy has emerged as an economic path that promotes resilient economic growth, social inclusion, and the maintenance and improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring the environmental sustainability of marine and coastal areas (World Bank, 2017).
The Blue Economy is grounded in Pauli’s concept of efficiency and innovation and, as a public policy, was first discussed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 in 2012. This public policy framework encompasses a wide variety of industrial activities, ranging from traditional industries, such as:
fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, and marine transportation,
to new industrial domains, such as:
offshore renewable energy,
carbon sequestration and marine biotechnology.
Furthermore, the development of the Blue Economy is expected not only to promote individual industries that are likely to grow in the future (e.g., offshore wind power generation). The Blue Economy also strategically combines multiple industries to achieve synergistic effects (e.g., promoting offshore wind power generation and using its marine infrastructure as fish-attracting devices). The goods and services that the Blue Economy supplies are valued at over US$2.5 trillion annually, even conservatively at the global level (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2015).
The shift towards a Blue Economy is of critical importance for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries, especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean region. These states have large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) that often dwarf their land areas. This unique characteristic means that the sustainable utilization of this vast developmental space has great potential for scaling up and diversifying their economies. In the Caribbean region, total annual revenues from the exploitation of marine resources, through shipping, mineral resources, tourism, and fisheries, are estimated to be at least US$407 billion (Patil, et al., 2016), but this represents only a portion of the potential value of the economic assets in the marine space.
Additionally, pursuing a Blue Economy pathway is a means of fostering entrepreneurship in coastal areas and economic growth of rural areas and communities, i.e.., Based on these potentials, several countries in the region are actively promoting this trend, including establishing blue economy ministries (e.g., Belize) as a way of improving the governance of the marine space.
Considering this development, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has been instrumental in supporting countries toward this goal of a sustainable Blue Economy. Specifically, since the mid-2010s, the IDB has partnered with countries to implement over 15 Blue Economy projects. The projects have utilized most of the financial instruments of the Bank, including (i) direct technical assistance, (ii) investment and policy-based loans, and (iii) equity lending and guarantees. Through these projects, the IDB has promoted the strengthening of public policies and governance, the conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems, the improvement of the regulatory framework, capacity development, and the involvement of the private sector and coastal communities. Some of these have been presented in previous Blogs. See below:
- 3 key learnings from World Oceans Day 2022
- Ocean resources are key to a sustainable and resilient recovery in Tobago
- Can the Blue Economy spark a sustainable and inclusive recovery in the Caribbean?
- El Caribe puede generar olas de progreso a través de la economía azul
We want to emphasize here, however, that the Blue Economy public policies of countries in the region have a strong potential for further evolution as we learn and explore more of this marine and ocean space. In this regard, there are two key areas of work: “Climate-Resilient” and “Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)”.
The Caribbean is in a highly vulnerable zone regarding acute events such as hurricanes, which often cause significant damage. For example, the islands member countries of the IDB’s Caribbean region (Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic) have experienced a total of 168 major hurricanes and other climate disasters in the past 20 years, affecting 12 million people and costing US$12 billion in direct losses (source: EM-DAT, 2022). But the region is also at high risk of slow onset but equally damaging events such as sea level rise and coastal erosion, together with flooding. These risks imply that the region’s blue economies require enhanced public policies. Fundamentally, it means that the development of the Blue Economy in Caribbean states could be improved if initiatives to manage current and future risks in coastal and marine areas are accurately and comprehensively incorporated. This could lead to more strategic investment and advancement in related industries and sectors of the Blue Economy.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).
We define ICZM here as a continuous and dynamic decision-making process for the sustainable use, development, and protection of coastal zones and oceans based on (Burke et al., 2020). Coastal ecosystems provide a variety of goods and services in countries in the region, including protection from shoreline erosion, effective land use, habitat for fishery resources, and tourism promotion (Waite et al., 2014). Several countries in the region have engaged in ICZM public policies since the 1990s to sustain the values provided by coastal ecosystems. This public policy has led to the more precise development of hub facilities (e.g., ports, beaches, and tourism facilities) for the region’s nearshore and offshore economic activities. We believe that this can be effectively promoted if this existing ICZM public policy know-how can be incorporated into the public policy of the Blue Economy.
To advance this agenda and continue the development support to countries in the region, the IDB will host a Regional Policy Dialogue on Disaster Risk Management on February 23 and 24, 2023. This initiative aims to discuss with high-level government officials a framework and approach for achieving a climate-resilient and sustainable blue economy public policy. Stay tuned to learn more about our efforts!
Photo credits: Shutterstock – El Viento Media Lab
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