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Coastal communities in the time of Covid

In November, we hosted a webinar series on the urgent needs of coastal areas and how nature and people on the coast are key to a green and fair recovery.


In 2015, we put out a paper outlining a common vision for coastal communities. Our work found that creating and supporting good, sustainable jobs is completely compatible with maintaining a healthy coastal and marine environment.

We called this vision the Blue New Deal. Similar in many ways to the now well-known Green New Deal, we focused on the particular challenges for both people and nature on the coast. The Blue New Deal is a plan for huge investment in the economic future of coastal communities, to combat the interlinked crises of inequality, climate emergency and ecological breakdown simultaneously.

The UK is an island nation, so the Blue New Deal is also an opportunity to bring the ocean into ongoing climate and economic recovery discussions. Our UK waters cover more than three and a half times that of our land area. Despite this reality, we seem to pay little attention to this vast treasure and incredible resource.

NEF’s approach to driving the Blue New Deal has been to first acknowledge that every day, coastal people are already fighting and working for that vision. But they needed to become more connected – we need to appreciate that there is a coastal economy, with common challenges and opportunities – so we need coastal-specific policy interventions and partnerships for places that are both economically deprived and on the frontline of a changing climate. So, our goal was to bring together fragmented efforts along our coast, to build and to scale up good practice, and share replicable models of collaborative projects to protect coastal resources and jobs. We wanted to make it the norm rather than the exception.

At the end of 2016, NEF launched Turning Back to the Sea – an action plan, co-developed with hundreds of people from all regions of the UK coast – to deliver the Blue New Deal vision. The plan outlines the approach and the actions, policy and investment needed (at local, regional and national level) to help transform the way our coastal economies work.

A lot has happened over the past five years: the damaging impacts of austerity are now better understood, we are now living through the ongoing risks and uncertainties of the UK outside of the EU, the climate movement has got stronger and more organised, and a large Conservative Party majority now sits in Parliament. This year brought us Covid-19, a global pandemic that has affected every aspect of our lives and reminded everyone living through this pandemic who our economy and society really depends upon – key workers in health, education, transport and utilities.

We are today living with multiple, complex and intrinsically linked crises and challenges. Many of the structural issues that we had been living with for so long have been exacerbated – and are now impossible to ignore – in a post-Covid world.

This pandemic is revealing the dirt of our social, economic and political systems that was previously hidden under the carpet – that the people we rely on the most are valued the least, and that the growing inequality in the UK has been compounded by Covid in terms of health, housing and education. As the inner workings of these systems are exposed, a moment is created to make the deep changes our society and economy needs. This is the moment to make changes that will make us all happier, improve the way we live, make our communities more resilient, and really invest in and cherish our relationship with nature and our coast.

To me, the Blue New Deal for the UK coast has never been more pertinent. We’ve done the work, we know what needs to happen, we know how to bring about transformative change. Now that there is a public debate and a necessity for government to deliver a green and fair recovery, what does that mean for our coastal areas?

You can find out by watching these videos from our three-part webinar series: Coastal Communities in the time of Covid. Hosted by NEF in November 2020, this series of discussions brought a variety of speakers together to share lessons from some of the work over the past years and shine a light on research and analysis looking at the urgent needs of the coast now. We wanted to raise the voices of those driving a coastal movement for thriving communities full of happy, active people who are able to enjoy and benefit from healthier and more resilient coast and seas.

Image: Pexels

If you back a recovery plan based around great public services, protecting the planet and reducing inequality, please support NEF to build back better.


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