ORRAA: We must invest in our Ocean to preserve nature and secure the wellbeing of coastal communities

As the Our Ocean Conference begins in Greece this week, Race to Resilience partner, the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA), underscores the critical need for investments in a regenerative and sustainable blue economy – vital for tackling the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. By ORRAA (the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance) | April 16, 2024

Greece, 16 April 2024: As we approach the ninth Our Ocean Conference in Greece and, with it, news of yet another searingly hot month and, in particular, a heating Ocean, the urgency of taking climate action to address both mitigation and adaptation cannot be overstated.

The themes of this year’s meeting echo those of year’s past, and it is absolutely crucial to focus on protecting the marine environment, climate change, maritime security, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and a sustainable blue economy. The Our Ocean Conferences, initiated by then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have been fundamental to increasing commitments to and high-level engagement in the Ocean space. Unlike for the Climate, there is no annual “Ocean COP”. And what we know today, is that a regenerative and sustainable blue economy is indispensable for addressing the twin climate and nature crises and can deliver substantial social benefits. Why regenerative? Because we have passed the point at which simply sustaining the status quo is sufficient. We need to rebuild ocean ecosystems and marine biodiversity if we are to ensure the wellbeing of the billions of people who live along the coast (whether it be in large cities or small communities), who rely on the Ocean for their livelihoods.

But moving the Ocean towards sustainability requires profound changes across a range of areas, based on a sound scientific understanding of what can deliver a nature- and climate-positive ocean recovery. The Ocean is the largest carbon sink on Earth. It absorbs a third of the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere and, almost unbelievably, has captured over 90 per cent of the heat from those emissions. In fact, if it were not for the Ocean, surface temperatures on land would be so high, that they would be exceeding those at which human cells begin to degrade. In other words, our terrestrial world would be largely unliveable. And those temperatures were measured before the past 10 months of increased ocean heating, so, as usual, we have no time to lose.

The bottom line: the Ocean is an overused and undervalued planetary asset which is critical to addressing the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity, and food security. Investment into a regenerative and sustainable blue economy is essential to tackling this accelerating crisis – it also opens the door to, well, an ocean of opportunities, and our opportunity now, is to dive in and make these happen.

In fact, that is what Race to Resilience partner, ORRAA (the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance), is doing right now.

Since it launched in 2019, ORRAA has directly committed USD$22.5 million in direct support for the development of ocean and coastal finance and insurance products. This work has leveraged an additional USD$9.7 million of investment into coastal resilience. ORRAA’s 90-plus members have contributed a further USD$7.4 million of in-kind support to advance its mission: to deploy USD$500 million of investment into coastal and ocean resilience through finance and insurance products by 2030, thereby building the resilience of 250 million climate vulnerable coastal people in the Global South.

ORRAA is unique, bringing together multiple sectors in a collaborative global effort to build the capital market for the Ocean. Its three-prong strategy works from beachfront to boardroom through grants to 40 projects to grow an investable product pipeline, financing the development of insurance for coral reefs, mangroves and small-scale fishers, developing savings accounts, impact bonds and cooperative platforms. It is tackling the ‘missing-middle,’ developing match-making platforms and impact funds to address the USD$1-15 million valley-of-death for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Global South. It is working from the top-down to develop the Sea Change Impact Financing Facility (SCIFF), an open architecture springboard of de-risking and investment vehicles to mobilize USD$2.5 billion of broader capital for six regenerative and sustainable blue economy sectors: Ocean Conservation, Ridge to Reef, Sustainable Seafood, Sustainable Blue Infrastructure, Circular Economy and Blue Technology, and Ocean Based Renewables.  

As we look forward to key events later this year and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP29) in Baku, Azerbaijan in November, we are absolutely clear: there is no stable climate without a thriving ocean. By investing in ‘blue’ nature as an asset class, we can ensure a sustainable and regenerative ocean has a seat at the table in climate finance decisions. Together we can build a future where nature is valued and protected. We have no time to lose as we redouble our efforts towards building coastal and ocean resilience.

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