“A resilient and net zero world is not possible unless the ocean and its biodiversity are protected”

By Chip Cunliffe and Karen Sack | August 24, 2021

Chip Cunliffe and Karen Sack are Co-Chairs for the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance.

Here is their contribution to the Our World in Your Hands project.

Dear world leaders,

A healthy ocean plays a vital role in combating climate change. It is the planet’s largest carbon sink. Meanwhile, marine and coastal ecosystems like coral reefs and mangroves offer efficient and cost-effective ways to mitigate climate risks while bringing a host of social and economic benefits to the millions of people living in coastal areas, including social, food and economic security.

The ocean is unquestionably one of the planet’s greatest assets and the importance of the forthcoming COP26 to protect and secure its sustainable future cannot be overstated. We know that you are aware of this. We also know that you recognise that a resilient and net zero world in the 2040s is not possible unless the ocean and its biodiversity are protected.

Yet the ocean is in crisis. Ocean heating, pollution, overfishing, rising levels of acidity and biodiversity loss are eroding its sustainability at significant cost to communities, societies, and businesses in both the short and long term.

The Association of British Insurers have calculated that coastal floods and storm surges cost the world between US$10bn and US$40bn a year. And according to the Global Commission on Adaptation, by 2050 rising sea levels and extreme weather are expected to cost coastal communities around the world up to US$1 trillion annually.

These are startling figures, pointing to significant costs to the global economy and proving yet again that climate risk and ocean risk together, equal financial risk. You only have to look to the destruction wrought by the recent devastating floods from China to Europe, to understand the power of water. The increasing intensity of hurricanes and cyclones is further testament to that power.

The good news is that there is already real momentum towards protecting our biodiversity and global resilience through the ocean. The WWF Report, Reviving The Ocean Economy: The Case for Action placed a value of US$24 trillion on the ocean, creating a baseline for driving investment into coastal and marine natural capital; mitigating risk and building resilience in communities adapting to climate change.

This investment is crucial. We need a new generation of financial backers from institutional investors to family offices, and from banks to insurers to put capital to work in the ocean. This will fight climate change, it will protect coastal communities and it will preserve the assets that people around the world depend on for their livelihoods and for their financial security. Critically, obtaining returns from innovative and investable products and projects will contribute to the long term and sustainable prosperity of ocean dependent communities and societies, including in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS). It’s a ‘win, win’. But we have to ‘back blue’ to achieve it, and we are asking you to support us.

There are three ways in which you can help. Firstly, support us in raising an initial US$500m of investment to drive into coastal nature to create scalable and investable projects and products that build social, economic, and ecological resilience for up to 250 million people. Secondly, work with the financial sector to make sure that the global regulatory system is fit for purpose and can provide the right framework for sustainable blue investments; and finally, join our Alliance so that we can build forward together.

With 40% of the global population living within 100 kilometres of the coast and 600 million people (10% of the world’s population) living in coastal areas less than 10 metres above sea level, just imagine the accrued benefits of extending and scaling these finance products and projects. With your help they can be. Only then can we meet our joint climate goals on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, becoming better Ocean stewards and securing our common health and prosperity.

We are looking forward to working together to make this future a reality.

Best regards,

Chip Cunliffe and Karen Sack


Youth & Civil Society

The Climate Champions Youth Fellowship 2024

Find out if you are eligible for our paid fellowship programme, and apply before 10pm GMT on Wednesday 10th April   Young people and future generations are environmental stewards of the future. Many are also leaders and subject matter experts today. The Climate Champions Team, in support of the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, are […]

Youth & Civil Society

Upcoming: UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67)

The 67th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment, will take place this year from 6 – 17 March under the theme, “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.