SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 - Page 23

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: ECOLOGY Green funds now exist in the global investment sector for protecting mangroves because they absorb a lot of carbon. So, the mangrove can have a value far greater than cutting it down to make way for another shrimp farm. – Pierre Failler PHOTO: NATTU ADNAN / UNSPLASH. The Centre for Blue Governance The Centre for Blue Governance is an interdisciplinary initiative to bring together researchers and students to collectively address the global challenge of sustainable and fair use of marine and inland systems. Aquatic environments cover more than 70 per cent of our planet’s surface and the value of the global oceans is estimated to be US$24 trillion. The scale and importance of aquatic systems affect biodiversity and ecosystem services, and are crucial in addressing challenges in climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as in safeguarding human health and wellbeing. However, large gaps still exist in conceptual knowledge and practice of how to best govern aquatic environments for the common good. By involving students in ongoing research and innovative experiential teaching methods, the Centre is helping the next generation of researchers, thought leaders and policymakers to develop new and urgently needed holistic solutions for humans and the planet. � Tides of change For this reason, Professor Failler’s research must be practical. He is often invited by governments or UN agencies to explore specific national or regional challenges on the ground. He leads and coordinates projects that are collaborative and interdisciplinary, assembling teams of economists, geographers, ecologists and sociologists from universities around the world. When delivering an economic evaluation, the research teams typically collaborate with a key in-country institute for undertaking fieldwork, data analysis and reporting. The consequences can be far-reaching. One recent project was set up to assess the value of coastal and marine ecosystems in Overseas France, including Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte and Réunion. The project involved evaluating the monetary value of coral reefs and mangroves from ‘direct use’ such as tourism and fisheries, and ‘non-uses’ such as cultural and other non-monetary values that people place on beaches and ecosystems. “But the biggest potential,” Professor Failler says, “is from what we call the indirect uses; services provided by ecosystems, but for which there is no apparent market. “For instance, the reef protects the coast, but nobody pays money for this protection. If you remove the reef, the coast will be washed away very quickly. There would be a cost to replace it, so we take that into account. “The mangroves eliminate a lot of pollution; they have a water treatment function that has value. Also, if you remove the mangroves you won’t have any more shrimp. “It’s these non-direct uses that actually have the greatest value, but because there is no overt market nobody recognises their economic importance. We have to show how the value of these services is no less than the value of, say, the local agricultural sector.” In the above example, Professor Failler’s team’s findings led local politicians to make policy changes, implementing strategies to protect the coast and increase the islands’ appeal to tourists. These are the ripples of change that researchers like Professor Failler believe will reach around the world as developed countries find they can take their cues on environmental economics from developing nations. He cites numerous strategies already in action – from Kenya’s pioneering use of mobile apps and drones to fight malaria, to the Seychelles’ innovative deal to erase national debt in return for investing in environmental assets for coastal protection. He has found that the biggest challenge to making change happen is coordination between active individuals, agencies and government departments. “It takes a lot of round tables and meetings. You need to have a framework and it has to come from the highest level of government.” Professor Failler helps nations to develop these frameworks and to accept that change also takes time: “In Mauritania, we recommended ways to improve the efficiency and sustainability of fisheries. The government quite quickly implemented many of our recommendations, but it will take 10 years to see the results.” The hope is that, when such results include a fisher doubling his or her income while working in new ways that protect and preserve fish stocks for future generations, the wait will be considered worthwhile. ISSUE 1 / 2020 23