By Rebecca Theodore
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 07 2017 – Broadly understood, the ‘Blue Economy’ is an economic activity that is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean and coastal ecosystems to support this activity and remain healthy and resilient. This being the case, how then can the ‘Blue Economy’ offer an immediate life line for the more than 40 million people that now lie in peril from the ravages of climate change in the Caribbean?
Although small developing island states are paying interest to the areas that depend on marine environment in the ‘Blue Economy,’ it must also be noted that the devastating effects of climate change, and ocean acidification in the Caribbean are rapidly changing the relationship between people and their environment. Coral reefs in the Caribbean are experiencing severe bleaching. Loss of mangrove vegetation along coastlines, beach erosion, and the destruction of marine life are making this ‘Blue Economy’ theory nonexistent.
Environmental experts further determine that rising sea levels and surge from more intense storms are expected to dramatically transform shorelines in the Caribbean, bringing enormous economic and social costs.
According to statistics, 70 percent of Caribbean populations living in coastal settlements will in time be devoured by rising sea levels, increasing hurricane intensity, and disrupting lives, property, and livelihood. The rising of ocean water level also increases the salinity of coastal aquifers, reducing the availability of fresh water through wells and springs and limiting the supply of fresh water.
Moreover, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre further stresses that the projected costs to the region due to increased hurricane damage, loss of revenue to the tourism sector and damage to infrastructure, could be US$10 billion by 2025, and US$22 billion by 2050.
On that basis, it is estimated that the adverse effects of climate change could cost Caribbean countries up to 75% of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2100.
Thus, the brilliant opportunity for the Caribbean to evolve on its policy position in this ‘Blue Economy’ through the United Nations high level Ocean summit is of paramount importance. Not only does it readily ascertain that the health of a people, communities and the ecosystems are under serious threat but it presents many unanswered questions.
The real question is whether CARICOM states are resolved on categorizing the “red line” issue of this ‘Blue Economy’ at this United Nations high level Ocean conference?
Are CARICOM negotiators providing new ideas for policies and approaches in dealing with disaster risks and vulnerabilities, as well as providing commendations that will apprise policies, campaigns, and programs for building resilience to the events related to climate change in the Caribbean?
Or, alternatively, will international organizations, multinational companies and NGOs and governments take immediate actions against rising sea levels, and the destabilization of climate patterns that undermine the dependable agricultural cycles, that are rapidly leading to food scarcity in the Caribbean?
Notwithstanding the fact, that the Caribbean island of Grenada remains the only Caribbean island to develop a vision for an economy based on blue growth, it cannot be denied that when it comes to the subject of the ‘Blue Economy’ in the Caribbean, innovative financing options and international support are urgently needed.
On this, “United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is supporting Grenada to identify new and innovative financing options, including developing the world’s first ‘blue’ social impact bond, and is looking at how aid providers can make their financing more ‘catalytic’ and responsive to national development priorities. UNDP is also providing technical support to leverage different sources of development finance, including climate finance.”
But here again, if the ‘Blue Economy’ is to take precedence in other Caribbean states, then, there must be a re-visitation of the political obligation of the Paris Climate change agreement. The new emerging challenges of climate change in the Caribbean must be addressed if the United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 14 is to make an impact towards the 2030 target. The need to ascertain an economic recovery and divergence plan for the Caribbean’s upcoming hurricane season requires urgent attention at this UN high level ocean summit if the Caribbean is to fit well into this ‘Blue Economy.’
Indisputably, Caribbean small island developing states are among the most profoundly indebted states in the world. This means that completing the task of the ‘Blue Economy’ for Caribbean states requires funding, and access to new technologies. Mitigation actions are urgently needed to adjust to the hostile bearings of climate change in the Caribbean.
Given all that, ocean acidification continues to have shocking long-term impact on the growth and development of Caribbean states. Climate change positions a significant danger on the socio-economic settings and on the physical resources of Caribbean states. Climate change is now confirmed in every fragment of the Caribbean economy. The damage from climate change is not an isolated threat, but a lived and present reality in the Caribbean.
Consequently, if Caribbean states are to use the ‘Blue Economy’ approach to expand their economy, then, the efforts to promote ocean sustainability through the high level United Nations summit must also guarantee new methods whereby ocean development can increase economic productivity, generate jobs, and decrease poverty.
The prospects for blue growth development in the Caribbean should be concentrated in areas such as fisheries and aquaculture, blue biotechnology, renewable energy, research, and innovation.
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