Grenada’s Commitment to Sustainability and the Blue Economy

26 Jul

Source: The Huffington Post

“I was always inspired by the marine environment. Growing up I spent a lot of time on the sea, so the oceans are something near and dear to my heart,” explained Dr. Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the United States. In an interview, we discussed Grenada’s commitment to growing the blue economy, why tackling the issue of sustainability is critical for future generations, and how their innovative efforts are serving as a model for the Caribbean.

Tell me a little bit about Grenada’s commitment to ocean health, biodiversity and environmental efforts. What sparked the initiative to be a leader on these issues in the Caribbean?

Grenada became a major leader in the climate change space during the early 2000s after successive hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, impacted and devastated our country. It became clear that something had changed, especially because we had historically been below the so-called “hurricane belt.” We’re known as the Spice Island, but we lost a lot of our crops as a result of these hurricanes, and that resulted in tourism becoming the main driver in our economy. Compared to other islands in the region, Grenada remains relatively underdeveloped. And so there is a sense of purity that is important to maintain.

A second component to our commitment is the fact that fisheries represent the fastest growing area of agriculture for Grenada in terms of exports. We are actually one of the few countries in the Caribbean that has a license to export fish to the European Union. Our Prime Minister has seen how important these tourism and fishing industries are for the people of Grenada, and is committed to ensuring that our oceans and environment are protected.

How did Blue Week start in Grenada, and what were some of the outcomes of the most recent event in May?

The genesis of this event really began with the Global Oceans Action Summit that took place at The Hague in 2014. From there, we decided to start the Global Blue Network. Leading up to last month’s conference in Grenada, we conducted follow up meetings in places like Indonesia, Rome and Washington, D.C. The goal was to have an action-oriented meeting – a meeting to discuss how we can take action now and form partnerships to find solutions. We had great partners who came to participate, including the World Bank, RARE, TNC, WWF, CREST, the Global Ocean Forum, Conservation International, FAO, the Dutch and German governments, and more. With the help of key partners, we built a database with a number of ocean-related projects that were looking to secure funding and shortlisted viable projects to participate in a shark tank style exercise where people could pitch their ideas to investors and either receive real-time advice or a financial commitment from a panel of experts. This resulted in around $1 million in investment deals for projects outside of Grenada.

Additionally, Grenada announced a debt-for-nature swap that will see $13.3 million invested in Grenada for ocean-related environmental projects and programs. With commitments from other partners and private sector actors, we’re looking at nearly $30 million dedicated to blue growth. For example, we’re working with a New York based think-tank Parley for the Oceans to intercept plastic waste that would otherwise pollute our oceans and provide to global brands, such as Adidas and G Star Clothing to repurpose into their products. Finally, we also announced the creation of the Blue Innovation Institute, which will be a new global body focused on innovation in blue growth that will be based in Grenada.

How would you describe the blue economy, and what does it mean for the future of Grenada?

We live primarily on a blue planet. Oceans cover over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, and if you add up all of the living matter on our planet, 94 percent would be found in our oceans. That equates to 3 to 5 trillion dollars in assets, and much of that is dependent on healthy oceans. There’s a strong economic argument to harness the potential of our oceans, especially now when many areas are in a period of low growth. We’ve seen studies indicating the blue economy could be a bright spot, especially if done in a way that’s sustainable and responsible. For example, offshore wind is a critical opportunity from an energy point of view. For Grenada specifically, small-scale fisheries, agriculture and tourism are all major areas that play into the blue economy.

On a more personal level, what motivates you and inspires you to engage with these issues so deeply?

My family comes from a rural fishing village in Grenada, totally cut off from the rest of the country. Fishing was one of the mainstays for our village, so from a young age we were exposed to the fishing industry. I was always inspired by the marine environment. Growing up I spent a lot of time on the sea, so the oceans are something near and dear to my heart.

In addition to the passion, it’s the logic that for Grenada and many other small island states, we have more governable space in the sea than on land. Thus, the blue economy has a direct impact on our own economy. For those reasons I’m very moved by this issue, and I’m concerned by the damage being done to the marine environment. We’re not going to tackle this problem just by talking about it, we need to actively find solutions that benefit our economies, environment and communities.

 

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