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World - Taking climate justice seriously in the blue economy | Greenbiz

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — aka "code red for humanity" — overflows with reasons for people everywhere to worry about the ever-hotter world we’re living in.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — aka "code red for humanity" — overflows with reasons for people everywhere to worry about the ever-hotter world we’re living in. But coastal and island communities are on the literal front lines of climate change — they’re already experiencing sea-level rise and ecosystem meltdowns that compromise their physical and economic health, and they need help now to avoid devastation.

The question is, what kind of help?

We can’t fix the problem. Even if we dramatically cut emissions over the next 10 years, a significant level of climate change is baked in. COP26 reflected that reality: Along with preventing further warming, one of its primary goals was to encourage adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats. We’re on our last best opportunity to do this, and we can’t fall back on traditional development approaches or assume a stable set of economic opportunities. If we want to build a resilient blue economy that uses ocean resources sustainably and promotes social and economic justice, we need to think differently.

Coastal communities must be pilots, not passengers, in the effort to chart a viable future. Industries, NGOs, impact investors and governments should help, but not via the typical route of trying to compensate for perceived community deficits. Instead, cross-sector collaborations should focus on fully valuing existing human, natural and cultural assets and employing them in line with social equity and circular economic principles.

How asset-based development supports climate justice

Traditional needs-based development strategies, which identify gaps and then attempt to attract new investment or industries to fill them, are vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles and changes in the policy environment. They’re also inherently top-down and tend to sideline locally rooted cultural assets and reinforce long-standing social inequities or leave them unaddressed.

Asset-based development starts with assessing the full spectrum of established community advantages and then focuses on leveraging those assets to create sustainable growth, a healthier environment and stronger regional economic connections. It’s a better climate adaptation strategy in near-shore communities for both practical and ethical reasons: It avoids the risks of trying to create something new from scratch in a rapidly changing situation. It puts more control in community hands. And the focus on resilience leads naturally to circular economy principles: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Most efforts to address climate change in coastal areas have focused on saving marine life, and from that perspective, local communities often look like the problem rather than a wellspring of potential solutions.

For philanthropic funders, in particular, this will require shaking off an embedded model of thinking. Philanthropy is built for fixing things, while an asset-based strategy requires supporting a community in developing its own adaptation solutions. It also requires a broader view of economic potential that connects land and sea assets in an integrated blue-green strategy.

If we look only at an island’s or coastal community’s blue economy assets, we’re ignoring the fact that many blue assets might be wiped out. Many of these places face ongoing shoreline erosion and frequent devastating storms that wreak havoc on coastal infrastructure. And fish are already migrating to more livable water temperatures, significantly reducing the sustainable catch in many parts of the world and putting some regions on course to lose key species.

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