Getting Incentives Right for Sustained Blue Growth: Science and Opportunities

Sunday, February 19, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 313 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
The ocean provides humanity with many benefits including production of the main source of protein for 3 billion people, employment of over 200 million people, and contribution of $270 billion to global GDP. Looming environmental challenges in the ocean threaten current and future sustainable development. Insights from studies of complex adaptive systems including coupled human-natural systems highlight the importance of feedbacks between the behaviors of individual actors and emergent system properties. Specifically, there is potential for incentives acting on individuals—whether people, nations, or corporations—to be harnessed to align with environmental objectives in ways that lead to desirable social outcomes. Our recent work suggests that shifting economic and social incentives has spurred conservation success in rights-based fisheries, marine spatial planning, and the development of large marine reserves, but the question remains of how to scale and replicate success.

Blue growth offers the potential to use ocean resources sustainably while producing diverse benefits for society in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. As nations face pressure to deliver rapid economic and social results from new or expanded uses of the ocean, tensions are surfacing between short- and long-term outcomes with environmental objectives often losing out. Scientific analyses suggest that changes in economic and social incentives can result in better alignment of short-term outcomes with longer-term environmental resilience.

Using the lens of incentives, we recommend ways to build support for truly sustainable blue growth. First, decision-makers should promote win-win solutions with clear short-term environmental and economic benefits that showcase the potential of blue growth. Second, for blue growth to be successful, it will be necessary to transform social norms that drive the behavior of different actors, particularly in industry. Finally, integrating blue growth across sectors strengthens incentives to consider costs and benefits beyond just economics.

The scientific community will be essential for the success of these efforts by quantifying natural and human capital, conducting use-inspired research, and forging new partnerships.