18 May 2016

Blue New Deal: thriving coastal communities and healthier seas

Since launching the Blue New Deal initiative in 2015, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has been leading UK-wide efforts to develop an action plan to help transform coastal economies and restore the health of the marine environment. NEF plans to launch the Blue New Deal action plan in autumn 2016. Its innovative approach has been to draw on people’s experiences, helping them identify the strengths of the places in which they live, and exploring approaches that are already working at a local level, as a prompt to take national action.

Coastal communities have an incredible asset at their doorsteps. They need a fresh and hopeful perspective that can help revitalise their economies and restore a sense of pride in their coastal identity, delivering more and better jobs and increased wellbeing. Healthier and more productive seas are a fundamental part of delivering this vision.

A collective failure, over the years, to plan, rethink and transform the coastal economy has left coastal areas vulnerable to increasing economic and environmental challenges. To help solve these complex issues, the Blue New Deal is proposing a radical change to how we approach development on the coast.

Listening and engaging with a range of voices and interests has revealed examples of good practice and ideas that communities are already using to tackle different problems. The Blue New Deal website is highlighting many of these stories, and these actions are helping us shape a UK-wide plan that proposes long-term solutions to the challenges facing coastal communities and the marine environment.

Ulster Wildlife’s work is featured on the Blue New Deal’s website

Since December 2015, NEF has been leading the process of co-developing the action plan; trying to understand what needs to happen in order to deliver the Blue New Deal vision; assessing the level of investment needed; and how different forms of financing mechanisms can meet this need. Crucially, it is about proposing ideas that can turn a few examples of good practice into common practice around the UK coast, to the benefit of communities, the economy and the coastal and marine ecosystems on which we all depend.

These discussions have been exploring solutions to crosscutting themes such as how we measure economic success; how to maintain the value created in the local economies; and how to encourage and support ownership, business and finance models that can better maximise and distribute socio-economic benefits to deliver best value to society.

The discussions are also looking at coastal specific issues or issues that are more acute in coastal areas, such as how to retain young people in those communities; how to address unique needs around energy efficiency; and the role of marine protected areas in sustainable coastal economic development.

The action plan will outline which important actions are necessary to support the economic transformation of the UK coastline. Although this transformation should be led and informed by the communities themselves, it cannot succeed without a corresponding vision at a national level and a long-term strategy that supports social, economic and environmental goals simultaneously.

The Blue New Deal is helping to strengthen existing efforts at a national level, inspiring and supporting communities to deliver change and promoting greater cooperation and communication around these complex issues. Lessons from this initiative can be replicated across the EU.

The Blue New Deal action plan will be launched in autumn 2016. For more information and updates, please check: www.bluenewdeal.org