Opinion

‘Teal Deal:’ Add blue to the Green New Deal

Big Sur at sunset. (Photo: S. Borisov, via Shutterstock)

California is spearheading efforts to address climate change while also supporting a robust economy, demonstrating leadership that values economic and environmental prosperity, sustainability and security. As policymakers prepare to vote in June on the new state budget while facing a massive budget deficit, we want to highlight a source of solutions largely absent from the discussion which can help spur an equitable economic recovery for all Californians.

Earlier this month, the proposed Green New Deal for California was amended to become the COVID-19 Recovery Deal, a policy framework that aims to achieve economic recovery while meeting critical environmental and social goals and objectives, such as addressing the looming crisis of climate change.

Investments in critical infrastructure and the development of new sectors will support a shift to a more sustainable economic system for California.

However, an important source of climate solutions remains largely overlooked: our 3,427 miles of coastline and adjacent oceans. We believe that blue policy options can play a key role in supporting efforts to avert climate change while spurring economic and social justice and recovery from the pandemic.

Hard choices must be made at this time, but New Deal-type investment in a suite of ocean-based tools and mechanisms that promote economic and environmental prosperity may be useful for policymakers and the private sector to consider.

We want to remind policymakers that ocean science can and should help inform and guide both economic recovery and growth, and climate solutions. Our recently published article in the journal Conservation Letters, “Integrating Oceans into Climate Policy: Any Green New Deal Needs a Splash of Blue,” reviews how oceans bolster climate adaptation, mitigation, as well as economic prosperity and community resilience at the same time.

The scientific evidence suggests reframing the Green New Deal as a Teal Deal (Green and Blue) can take advantage of innovations in four blue policy areas: ocean-based renewable energy, transportation, food production, and habitat conservation, simultaneously boosting economies and repairing ecosystems. We believe these investments in critical infrastructure and the development of new sectors will support a shift to a more sustainable economic system for California.

Renewable energy
Offshore wind and other ocean renewable energy sources can supplement land-based renewables especially during evening peak hours, when energy demand ramps up and solar energy sources cease to be available. Offshore wind energy operations can be carefully sited to minimize costs to nature and other human uses of the ocean, such as fishing, while contributing to the State’s energy targets.

Marine transport
Marine transport contributes 18% to California’s ocean economy, second only to tourism and recreation. Policies that support ships using less fuel in port and harbor areas can help reduce GHG emissions. For example, the Ports of San Francisco, Hueneme, and San Diego provide shore power to ships while at port, thus significantly lowering fuel use, GHG emissions, and improving local air quality. Los Angeles and Long Beach ports also incentivize vessel speed reductions to reduce total emissions.

Food production
Seafood boasts the smallest carbon footprint of any animal protein. The food and income created by fisheries and seafood industries delivers many benefits to both coastal and inland communities. Regionally appropriate seaweed and shellfish aquaculture can also support economic prosperity, food security, and climate mitigation goals. Seaweed aquaculture can sequester carbon, which supports California’s carbon neutrality goals, and can also be used as organic fertilizer and food source for cattle on farms inland to help reduce farms’ carbon footprint.

Restoring coastal habitats
Restoring and protecting forests is a benchmark of Green New Deal proposals, echoing the Civilian Conservation Corps part of Roosevelt’s original New Deal. Protecting coastal habitats, including kelp forests and tidal wetlands can store much more carbon per area than forests. Preserving and restoring coastal habitats not only supports climate mitigation goals, but also protects billions of dollars of coastal property in California from sea level rise and other coastal hazards over the next 30 years. Investment today in coastal natural infrastructure and jobs to protect and restore these habitats will save hundreds of billions of dollars in avoided damage.

A Teal Deal combines land and ocean incentives to address climate change, generating economic benefits to communities everywhere. The pandemic has shown us that responsive and coordinated efforts across sectors can help reverse a crisis. California’s leadership during the pandemic illustrates that we can also develop a rapid, responsive and coordinated land-and-ocean plan for climate resilience that supports social and economic goals. What happens in California doesn’t stay in California. With continued bold leadership and cross-sectoral, collaborative action, California can lead the way to a future of climate resilience and readiness driven by prosperity for people and nature.

Editor’s Note: Arielle Levine is a professor of environmental geography at San Diego State University, Rebecca Lewison is a professor of biology at San Diego State University and Steven Dundas is an assistant professor of environmental economics at Oregon State University.


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