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Earth Day Spotlight: Our Ocean, Our Blue Economy

By ITA Under Secretary Marisa Lago & NOAA Under Secretary and Administrator Richard Spinrad

For more than half a century, communities worldwide have gathered in late April to take part in acts of science, service and stewardship in celebration of Earth Day. At the Department of Commerce, Earth Day and Earth Month offer an important moment to shine a spotlight on the global ocean, the lifeblood of our planet’s most vital functions and the power source of global commerce and trade.

The bureaus that we represent – the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are distinct in their missions, but share the Biden-Harris administration and Department of Commerce’s commitment to coupling sustainability with economic growth and unleashing the power of the US private sector to combat climate change. Just as president Biden has implemented an all-of-government approach to tackling the climate crisis, the Department of Commerce is activating its bureaus to act creatively and collaboratively to advance research, promote cleantech exports and rebuild more sustainable and equitable industries.

Of all the areas where ITA and NOAA’s work overlap, none is as crucial as the Blue Economy, the industries, jobs and economic growth that rely on and protect our precious ocean and Great Lakes resources. The United States is not just home to 95,000 miles of shoreline where half of our population lives, we’re also home to an enormous source of revenue and jobs generated by the interwoven sectors of marine transportation, offshore renewable energy, seafood, fishing, and coastal travel and tourism.

In 2018 alone, the American Blue Economy supported 2.3 million jobs and contributed $373 billion to our GDP. By the start of the new decade, the Blue Economy across the globe is expected to double to $3 trillion. It is nearly impossible for most Americans to go a single day without using, wearing, or eating something that has come from or through our ocean and coasts.

However, the ocean isn’t merely the moving force of commerce. Having absorbed as much as 90 percent of the planet’s warming in recent decades, the ocean disproportionately exhibits the impacts of climate change – from sea-level rise to ocean acidification. We can learn so much from what the oceans are telling us and use that knowledge to prepare sectors of our economy for climate impacts.

NOAA’s observations of our oceans and coasts help provide crucial public data that help US companies make informed decisions, stock store shelves, and reach customers worldwide. Thanks to NOAA’s work, the US government has developed a strong track record of working with private sector companies to build satellites that track our weather, airplanes that hunt hurricanes, buoys that monitor water levels, and international partnerships that engage in research across borders. That innovation has never been more exciting than today, with US companies leading the way with tools like drones that deliver lifesaving data in real-time on extreme weather and insights to help us better understand climate change.

At the same time, ITA is helping to build a more robust, equitable, and sustainable economy by promoting US trade and advocating for American workers and businesses. This begins with combatting the climate crisis at home and abroad through the power of US innovation in the Blue Economy. It is more important now than ever before to ensure that American-made products, services and solutions are available to countries around the world to face the challenges posed by climate change.

ITA helps US companies big and small, including minority-owned enterprises, make inroads into international markets so they can provide the products and services the world needs to curb harmful emissions, mitigate natural disasters, and instill a new environmental legacy for future generations – which is why ITA is pursuing a Clean Tech Export Competitiveness Strategy. ITA seeks to build on the ingenuity of US businesses and workers to help partners and allies to meet their climate goals while building high-paying jobs at home.

Despite vastly different portfolios, NOAA and ITA are enthusiastic about how our collaboration can provide solutions that protect, celebrate and care for our one beautiful Earth. We look forward to opportunities to spur innovation and further engage with our Blue Economy stakeholders. To that end, in September, we invite US companies in the Blue Economy space to register for an important ITA forum to be held in Providence, Rhode Island. Discover Global Markets: The Blue Economy offers these businesses the opportunity to hear from and be matched with ITA-vetted foreign buyers, distributors, industry experts, US commercial diplomats, and others from more than 20 countries–representing a truly global showcase.

A new age in ocean technology, sustainability, and logistics calls for a New Blue Economy that puts US companies and our workforce at the center of climate solutions. With climate considerations at the center of the Biden administration’s foreign policy and trade agenda.

The New Blue Economy will enable the improved collection, analysis, and dissemination of ocean and coastal-derived data designed to help economies thrive and marine ecosystems flourish. Through bilateral engagements and international partnerships, the United States is leading the way to address the climate crisis, strengthen supply chains, end unfair trade practices, and foster global innovation and creativity. Our two bureaus are committed to helping the US remain a leader in solutions to help Mother Earth. Happy Earth Day!

Marisa Lago is the Under Secretary for International Trade and leads the International Trade Administration.

Dr. Richard Spinrad is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.



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