At COP15 it’s time for us to do a double shift to protect and revive Ocean biodiversity

A robust target must be agreed to strongly protect at least 30 per cent of the Ocean by 2030, writes Karen Sack, Executive Director, Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA). By Karen Sack, Executive Director, Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) | December 19, 2022

Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of the Oceans said recently, “it’s time for us to do a double shift to protect and revive Ocean biodiversity.” Lewis, who has put his life on the line for our planet, swimming in extreme environments to showcase how quickly our Ocean is changing, has, as usual, summed up our task in a few critical words.

December 14 was finance day at COP15, the global biodiversity Summit. With countries gathered in Montreal, we have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to double down on the decisions needed to revive and restore nature. Critically, a robust target must be agreed to strongly protect at least 30 per cent of the Ocean by 2030. The reality from every report that has been released is that no deal can be too ambitious.

Investing in Nature is a key solution, and it is hiding in plain sight. 

Ocean Nature-based Solutions could potentially provide 21 per cent of the annual emissions reductions needed to achieve the Paris 1.5C target by 2050. The climate change and nature crises are inextricably linked so it stands to reason that Nature-based Solutions lie at the heart of addressing both. Many nations have already included nature-based solutions as part of their national climate action plans – known as Nationally Determined Contributions – and made them part of their National Adaptation Plans but developing countries and local communities require ramped up financial and technical support. UN Environment recently found that only about USD$133 billion are channelled into nature-based solutions each year and that these need to triple by 2030.

Marine and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, sea-grasses, coral reefs and salt marshes, are proven efficient and cost-effective resilience builders and biodiversity reservoirs as well as (in most cases) carbon sinks, often much more so than their human designed counterparts. Protecting coral reefs and mangroves is estimated to be fifty times more cost effective over 15 years than building a concrete sea wall.  What’s more, they do not start to degrade as soon as the building stops.  They get better and stronger and more diverse the longer they are there.

Coastal and marine ecosystems can play a critical role in building resilience by reducing annual damages to property from extreme storms by up to 30 per cent, saving upwards of USD$1 billion in avoided losses.

Yet funding for ocean and coastal resilience is far below what is required. Investing in the sustainable blue finance opportunities that will revive and restore marine biodiversity is not a zero-return investment. With almost half of total economic activity dependent on the ocean, investing at least USD$25 billion per annum on coastal resilience is not only the minimum required but also a sensible investment. Investment into coastal and ocean adaptation and resilience is an opportunity to drive forward community-led, gender-sensitive and climate-justice focused investment and to fuel regenerative economies that benefit all.

The Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) is driving a sea change in investment into both coastal and ocean resilience and adaptation through our 2030 mission: to activate at least USD$500m investment into coastal and ocean natural capital so that billions more can be leveraged into the space, making 250 million climate vulnerable coastal people more resilient.

Every investment into nature is climate positive. Every investment into adaptation is mitigation action too. 

Karen Sack Photo

Karen Sack, Executive Director, Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA)

Without the Ocean, global mean average temperature on land would be 50 degrees Celsius – the temperature at which human cells begin to degrade.  Because the Ocean has absorbed over 90 per cent of the heat from our CO2 emissions, global mean average temperature on land today is 13 degrees Celsius.  So the Ocean has effectively enabled humans to continue to live, love, make war, secure peace and develop our global economy despite our fossil fuel addiction.

This has created many challenges now impacting on marine life, but the Ocean has an incredible ability to regenerate and to heal itself. It is time now for that double-shift that Lewis spoke of: time for us to help it heal and recover.

We need to Back Blue, to work with communities and partners on the ground to develop the pipeline of investable projects that build resilience, help communities adapt to change and regenerate biodiversity. There are many high quality, investable opportunities out there.  Whether it is investment into a start-up, or a mid-stage entrepreneurial entity, innovation abounds. There is also work to do at the country level to ensure that particularly for developing countries and Small Island Developing States, debt is made more sustainable and investments into Nature based Solutions take place at scale. We also need to develop a global ocean finance architecture – something that we, at ORRAA, along with our partners, are focused on: a Sea Change Impact Finance Facility (SCIFF), to secure a step change in the scale and speed with which finance from the private and public sector can be activated and invested into coastal and ocean resilience.

ORRAA is focused on multi-solver solutions and bringing different stakeholders together, from banks to insurers and from governments to civil society.  Only together can we hope to solve this crisis in nature.  And together we can bring the types of solutions we need forward.

Karen Sack, Executive Director, ORRAA

This piece was published here.


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