Oceans cover 71% of our planet and are key to climate solutions.
You have probably heard of a Green New Deal - a government-led roadmap to transition to a 100% clean energy future, with a strong focus on environmental and economic justice. But like me you may not have heard of the term, Blue New Deal. The term was coined because the environment doesn't stop at the shoreline and there is a gap in the Green New Deal which has limited planning for the oceans. A Blue New Deal, with its focus on restoring and protecting our oceans and the blue economy, is needed to fill this gap.
"We need a Blue New Deal, alongside a Green New Deal to rebuild our blue economy, protect and restore ocean habitat, and adapt in a climate changed world."
These are the words of US Senator Elizabeth Warren. She also explains that while the ocean is severely threatened, it can also be a major part of the climate solution which provides new sources of clean energy and supports a future of ocean farming.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist, Founder and Chief Executive of the Ocean Collectiv, and founder of the nonprofit think tank Urban Ocean Lab, was an adviser to Elizabeth Warren, during her 2020 presidential campaign and was key to developing the Blue New Deal. In a Washington Post interview last December she explained "that our blue economy, including fishing, ocean farming, shipping, tourism and recreation, supports more than 3.25 million American jobs and a $300-billion annual contribution to our gross domestic product. These communities are threatened by rising sea levels, eroding coasts and climate change-fueled storms. Yet a Green New Deal resolution, designed to transform our economy to a 100-percent clean energy future and address astronomical social inequality along the way, makes only a single passing reference to the world's oceans. There is a big blue gap in the Green New Deal."
This "big blue gap" 'is the reason she helped Elizabeth Warren expand the vision of the Green New Deal, developing a Blue New Deal to restore and protect coastal ecosystems, invest in renewable offshore energy and support jobs in the blue economy.
The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP) aims to fill the shortcomings of the Green New Deal. It was produced by the Centre for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute and the nonprofit Blue Frontier. Even though there are provisions in the Green New Deal which address fisheries and fishing communities, it doesn't go far enough to address the many environmental and social challenges that lie along the world's shorelines and oceans: industrial overfishing; coastal flooding; declining biodiversity; plastic waste; irresponsible tourism; unsustainable aquaculture; oil and chemical pollution; invasive species; and a range of other issues, many affecting the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.
The Blue New Deal, as laid out in the OCAP report, aims to achieve two key objectives:
"Use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw atmospheric greenhouse gases down to safer levels; and enable coastal communities to more effectively and equitably adapt to climate impacts."
In a recent interview with Greenbiz, David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier explains, "When we talk about the blue economy, we're talking about sectors that are sustainable and that maintain the health of the ocean that support our economies and communities, both human and wild".
He went on to explain they are looking at ways to build and expand economic activity to benefit sustainable ecosystems, the health of the ocean, and ocean-dependent communities.
There is no doubt that the health of our oceans and our earth's future are linked. "Change the oceans and you change the world" is a quote from the wonderful ABC series Australia's Ocean Odyssey: A journey down the East Australian Current. And if you haven't seen it yet or you're a big fan of the mind blowing world that is under the ocean, you can catch it on iview (in Australia). The series illustrates how important healthy oceans are to all life on Earth. The 3 part series covers the health of our oceans and reveals how ocean currents create life on our planet. Ocean currents are described as the "arteries and veins of planet earth" because they are a vital support system which helps regulate earth's climate, atmosphere, weather and biological diversity.
This is why we need a Blue New Deal, a pathway to protect and restore our damaged ocean habitats, and rebuild the blue economy.
By Allison Licence
Allison Licence is a Sydney-based freelance writer and 1 Million Women volunteer who is passionate about the environment and finding ways to live more sustainably.