Written by BBC

The idea of “blue-green” economies has gained traction among nationalist leaders and UN bodies alike since the term first began to be circulated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2008, but do any of them actually agree on what it means?

“Blue-green economies”, also known as blue-green growth or simply “green economy” is a collection of loosely defined ideas that advocate for the diversification of island economies while keeping environmental concerns in mind. More broadly, however, the UNEP recommendation is a call for everything from improved technology to agriculture techniques to water tourism.

The terms “blue-green economies,” “green economy,” and their siblings (Henceforth referred to simply as green growth terms) have already been integrated into the political vernacular of island governments from Fiji to the EU, and organizations like the Pacific Island Development Forum. Some, however, have begun to question the validity of these terms to make precise policy claims or recommendations.

A recent report by a group of researchers at the Australian National University claims that the terms have taken on varied meanings across the globe, often suited to the local political climate instead of the original UNEP recommendations.

“What we find is a contested policy space, where Pacific actors deploy competing meanings of green growth terms in ways that both reflect their worldviews and support their agendas. This is most evident at the regional level, where competition between regional organisations now extends into usage of green growth terminology,” write the researchers in an article about their findings.

The researchers cite Island nations such as Fiji and Vanuatu, which have both used the terminology in a distinctly local fashion. Fiji, for instance, has adopted the “green growth” as part of its foreign as well as domestic policy.

Prime minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has gone so far as to say, “this Green Growth Framework will be one that is truly home grown, truly Fijian. And it will benefit not only Fijians but be ready to serve as a model for our island neighbours, who look to us for leadership on this issue as they do on other things relating to their own development.”

Differences in usage outside of the Pacific are even greater, however. The researchers note that in the Pacific, the term often involves an investment in resource sovereignty and national stewardship. This directly conflicts with more international notions, which the researchers claim are completely detached from any idea of national sovereignty. Indeed, it has taken criticism for its market-centric aspects.

When the Alliance of Small Island States meets later this week, the term will likely see a great deal of use. It remains to be seen whether representatives will be able to agree on a definition, or if it will continue to be a source of ambiguity instead of a precise policy recommendation.