Coastwide
World Bank Group

Comment: Will 2020 be the year of blue finance?

James Richens, Editor of The World Ocean Initiative, takes stock of Responsible Investor’s survey of investment risks and opportunities in the blue economy.

The year 2020 will be crucial for the sustainable development of the ocean. Some are calling it the “ocean super year” due to its packed agenda including the World Ocean Summit, the UN Ocean Summit, Our Ocean in Palau, the conference on the Convention on Biological Diversity and COP26 in Glasgow, UK.

There has been an awakening of interest in the ocean, especially the risks it faces from plastic pollution, loss of coral reefs and extreme weather due to climate change. This culminated in the COP25 climate talks in December 2019, which made progress on integrating ocean issues into the global climate effort (although the conference overall was rightly seen as a failure in terms of generating greater ambition among countries to cut carbon emissions).

Ocean of opportunity

What is less widely recognised is the important contribution that ocean-based industries can make to cutting carbon emissions, helping local communities adapt to the effects of climate change, and providing employment in a sustainable “blue economy”.

Analysis by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy found that solutions including offshore renewables, shipping, ecosystem restoration, fisheries and aquaculture, and seabed carbon storage could save more than 11bn tonnes of carbon by 2050—equivalent to the emissions from all of the world’s coal-fired power stations. They could contribute up to 21% of the reductions needed to close the gap between current emission levels and where the world needs to be to limit global warming to 1.5℃.

Responsible Investor’s survey into investors and the sustainable blue economy is therefore very timely. Institutional investors have a crucial role in protecting ocean health and channeling the huge amount of finance needed to make ocean solutions a reality.

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