By Suzanne Johnson, Head of Sustainability, Lloyd’s Register Foundation
Being environmentally friendly – whether at business or consumer level – has long been thought of as being ‘green’. Even in the phrases used to tackle climate change, from the ‘Green New Deal’ to living a ‘green’ lifestyle, or simply ensuring that companies are not ‘greenwashing’, the colour of climate change is green.
But when the first astronauts gazed back to Earth from space, they saw a beautiful ‘blue marble’ of a planet. It was an image dominated by the reflection of our oceans. Wherever we live in the world we are deeply and powerfully connected to the sea.
The oceans are crucial to connecting us, protecting us, and sustaining us. They produce more than half the planet’s oxygen, regulate the global climate, control our weather patterns, and act as a huge carbon sink. Yet for decades we have been over-exploiting and polluting the planet’s oceans with a cavalier disregard for the long-term consequences. Our low levels of awareness and understanding mean the oceans are largely ‘out of sight and out of mind’.
Now is the time for businesses and governments to wake up to the importance of urgent action to develop a responsible, sustainable, and safe ‘Blue Economy’ that protects our oceans – and us.
The Blue Economy comprises of sectors that can sustainably use the ocean for commercial activities, such as shipping, tourism, aquaculture, wild capture fisheries, marine renewable energy and industries that use coastlines and ports for trade. These sectors contributed US$1.5 trillion to global gross value added in 2010 with expectations of doubling to in excess of US$3 trillion by 2030. Many ocean economy industries are widely forecast to outpace global economic growth.
The Blue Economy is a treasure trove of solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems; 20% of the GHG reductions that need to be made by 2050 to meet the Paris Agreement will take place in four areas of the ocean – marine conservation (coastal and marine ecosystem restoration and protection), oceanic and coastal fisheries, marine transport, and ocean-based renewable energy.
To do this, we need the right financing. It is crucial that businesses recognise the need to align their operations with the transition to a net-zero, resilient future, and acknowledge that ocean industries should be at the forefront of this movement.
A sustainable ocean economy will function properly with a combination of public, private, and blended investment. This is increasingly front of mind for the private sector; according to a comprehensive global evaluation conducted by Credit Suisse in 2020, which indicated that nine out of ten investors were interested in investments related to the sustainable Blue Economy and one-third of those surveyed viewed ocean investments as one of the top investor priorities by 2030.
Indeed, the global Blue Economy is expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030 – so investing in the ocean economy makes good sense. For example, investing $1 in key ocean actions can yield at least $5 in global benefits, often more, during the next 30 years. Specifically, investing $2 trillion to $3.7 trillion globally across four key areas – conserving and restoring mangrove habitats, scaling up offshore wind production, decarbonising international shipping and increasing the production of sustainably sourced ocean-based proteins – from 2020 to 2050 would generate $8.2 trillion to $22.8 trillion in net benefits.
There’s no doubt about it; ocean investing is good investing. Blue finance can redirect funds from harmful activities to the development of blue solutions that address rising oceans, climate change, pollution, labour and other challenges and opportunities related to a sustainable ocean.
Financial policy and regulatory frameworks can evolve to support investments in marine and coastal ecosystem protection. For this to happen, there needs to be clear standards and metrics against which investments can be measured to assess that they are indeed being channelled into sustainable ocean uses. The evolution of existing industries alongside the creation of new industries, and the scaling up of infrastructure therefore relies on trusted data to uphold standards underpinning private or public funding to facilitate green jobs and a Blue Economy.
Businesses need to consider the Blue Economy as a fundamental priority – it’s not just a good business decision, but one that may make the difference to the future of our planet.