The Ocean as a Climate Solution

6 July 2021

A healthy and sustainable ocean provides valuable benefits to human society, acting as a carbon sink, oxygen provider, global network, food source and cultural anchor to billions. Often overlooked is the vital role the ocean plays in regulating the global climate and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Similarly, a stable climate wherein a global temperature increase is kept below 1.5°C maintains the healthy and vibrant marine ecosystems that society depends on. Therefore, the global ocean and the global climate are two sides of the same planetary coin.

Nevertheless, it is well understood that climate change poses stark risks to ocean health. The asset value of the ocean is currently estimated at USD 24 trillion. Without proactive measures taken to mitigate climate change, the cost of damage to the ocean could be an additional $322 billion a year by 2050. However, there are growing opportunities for investment to support sustainable oceans and to tackle the climate crisis together. One way to do this is through the decarbonising of the shipping sector, which is estimated to require USD 6 trillion in investment over the next 50 years.

The transition to a sustainable “blue” economy is an opportunity to re-cast how we use, manage and protect ocean resources in a more integrated manner. It is necessary to recognise and account for the value of natural capital, ecosystem services and resilience they offer at a time when the ocean and its dependent communities are facing the challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution – alongside the impacts of COVID-19 and post-pandemic recovery. In order to deliver a resilient and sustainable blue economy, ambitious action needs to be taken to confront these challenges.

Unlocking the financial sector for the sustainable blue economy allows for the potential of an environmentally and socially sustainable future that will be resilient to the impacts of climate change while providing livelihoods, food and prosperity. To support and enable this transition, the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles are the world’s first guiding framework supporting the alignment of financial activities with the implementation of ocean-related SDGs, in particular SDG 13 – Climate Action and SDG 14 – Life Below Water, among others.

Building on these Principles, the Turning the Tide: How to finance a sustainable ocean recovery is a market-first guidance for financial institutions on how to finance the transformation towards a sustainable use of ocean resources. The guide examines five prominent ocean-linked sectors – seafood, ports, maritime transportation, coastal and marine tourism and marine renewable energy, and provides recommendations on sustainable behaviour for financial institutions, including recommendations on climate action.

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