The World Bank (2016) defines the blue economy as "the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of marine and coastal ecosystems." The ocean, the world's biggest ecosystem, is the planet's lung. It is the primary source of food for almost half of the world's population and is home to circa 80% of biodiversity.
The ocean has a substantial impact on the lives of nearly 40% of the world's people who live near or on the coast. The OECD notes that the ocean economy will increase to 3 trillion USD by 2030, with over 40 million people employed. The ocean's earning capacity through direct outputs (fishing, aquaculture), services (tourism, education), trade and transportation (coastal and oceanic shipping), and adjacent benefits (carbon sequestration, biotechnology) is estimated at 24 trillion USD.
Rapid, unsustainable expansion will have negative consequences for the environment and natural capital, depleting the ocean's resource base and posing regulatory, commercial, and physical hazards. The financial industry has a unique potential to facilitate sustainability by incorporating sustainable blue finance principles into their decision-making processes and engaging with their clients on the matter.
There are a variety of established strategies that support climate change mitigation through natural system conservation and restoration. Many of these methods may be modified and used in blue carbon habitats along the coast. The majority of these opportunities, however, are focused on carbon contained in above-ground vegetative biomass and do not presently account for carbon in the soil. Blue carbon is being discussed by international policy agencies such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and others in their talks of natural ecosystems. Relevant techniques include REDD+ (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation +). Voluntary carbon markets seem likely as a source of financial support for coastal ecosystem conservation and restoration activities.
A development strategy grounded in the blue economy will enable the Caribbean to promote the growth of existing productive sectors, expand into emerging blue industries, improve food security, and potentially reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels while mobilising finance. This would enable the diversification of the region and reduce potential external shocks.