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Hundreds of citizens will fan out across the nation’s capital next week to meet with lawmakers in what’s projected to be the largest ocean lobby effort in US history. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they will meet with Biden administration officials, federal agencies, and members of Congress for a nonpartisan Ocean Climate Action Hill Day. The goal is to promote a number of priorities from the Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), which has been developed by a broad national coalition over the past two years.
Why It Matters: As the Biden administration and the Congress begin to debate what’s infrastructure and therefore within the American Jobs Plan, the blue economy needs to be front and center in it. More than half of Americans live within 50 miles of a coastline — so infrastructure spending should be focused there as well. The Ocean Climate Action Plan aims to make America stronger by making key investments in offshore clean energy, climate-resilient fisheries and aquaculture, green ports and shipping, and coastal restoration both to protect coastal communities and restore critical ecosystems. A wetland is infrastructure and so is a seagrass or oyster bed — especially when they provide needed and effective coastal protection at half the cost of seawalls and other engineered solutions.
No Blue, No Green
Along with a California delegation of over 150 people and teams from Florida, New York, Hawaii, and the other coastal states and territories, many of the delegations come from inland states such as Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, and Michigan, because as the Inland Ocean Coalition, which works on protecting water quality and eliminating plastic waste explains, “every state is a coastal state.” The citizen lobbyists will include tribal representatives, ocean industry experts, key players in the environmental justice movement, students from high school to graduate school, as well as state legislators and mayors. The key policies to be highlighted also reflect the Biden administration’s pledge to “Build Back Better” focusing on climate solutions that create good-paying jobs for American workers. One of the lead organizers of the event, David Helvarg, said, “doing what’s right for the 71 percent of our planet that is blue will greatly benefit the majority of Americans who live and work in coastal states, as well as the millions more who live in the Great Lakes Region or agricultural communities being hit hard by expanding climate impacts.”
Offshore Energy Should Be Renewable
Offshore wind can provide clean reliable power not just off the Atlantic Coast but also in Lake Michigan and Superior, and the zero-emission vehicles that can make our ports cleaner and protect fence line communities from pollution can be built in Detroit. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that a target of 30 GW by 2030 could support 83,000 jobs and deliver $25 billion in economic output. Even if, like most industry projections, this proves overly optimistic, consider the millions of jobs protected in tourism, recreation and real-estate when the devastating and inevitable impacts of oil spills are replaced by wind power (wind spills?) and cleaner air.
Coastal Restoration Is Infrastructure Too
A key demand will be for a minimum $10 billion investment in coastal restoration, to catalyze a large living shorelines industry that will use nature-based methods to both protect our coasts from rising seas and restore critical ecosystems that people love and depend on. Much of this money can be spent in ways that bolster youth employment, combat environmental injustice, and demonstrate that smart ecosystem management—building up dunes, reefs and planting seagrasses, rehabilitating salt and fresh marshes, mangroves, and other natural storm barriers, while also storing “blue carbon”— are good investments. According to a 2015 study, the restoration industry in the U.S. in one year produced over $24 billion in economic output and employed over 220,000 American workers.
What You Can Do: There is still time to join the group and deliver the message to Members of Congress and the administration — get more info and get registered here: www.oceanclimateaction2021.org.
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