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Over and under water photograph of a mangrove tree in clear tropical waters with blue sky in background near Staniel Cay, Exuma, Bahamas
Over and under water photograph of a mangrove tree in clear tropical waters with blue sky in backgound near Staniel Cay, Exuma, Bahamas

“This Earth Day, let’s invest in Planet Ocean”

This Earth Day, let’s invest in Planet Ocean”, a blog by Karen Sack, Executive Director, ORRAA, Saturday 22 April 2023

We have just one Earth and over 70 per cent of its surface is covered in water. Sir Arthur Clarke wrote, “how inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean”. As we mark Earth Day 2023, with its theme “invest in our Planet”, it is more important than ever that we focus on investing in the biggest biosphere on Earth: the Ocean.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its AR6 Synthesis Report last month, which makes clear the urgent need to address the deepening climate crisis and how critical the Ocean and its biodiversity are to doing just that. IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee recently said: “What happens with our oceans will profoundly and inevitably influence what happens to our planet and how liveable it will be in the not-so-distant future.” While the gist of the report is perhaps summarised most succinctly by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who said: “The climate time-bomb is ticking…But [the] IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity. Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast…Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.”

That melting ice is changing our Ocean and raising our seas. Sea surface temperature climbed to a new high last month. In 2022, ocean temperature reached its highest levels since record keeping began in 1958. The massive storms we now regularly see are evidence of the impacts of these changes – like the series of ‘atmospheric rivers’ that recently hit California, or tropical cyclone Freddy which broke records as it crossed the Indian Ocean from just near Australia, striking Madagascar, Mozambique twice and then Malawi.  Yet SDG 14:Life Below Water is the least invested in of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and less than one per cent of climate finance is invested into the Ocean.

Investing in coastal and ocean resilience makes climate sense and is common sense.

Coastal and Ocean Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are hiding in plain sight and offer cost-effective investments that build coastal resilience and reduce risk. That is why the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) is bringing together key stakeholders from the finance and insurance sectors, governments, multilateral organisations and stakeholders from the Global South to work together to incubate, innovate, and accelerate solutions that scale action. This radical collaboration is pioneering investments into coastal and ocean nature, with a focus on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed coastal countries. 

We are doing this in three ways.

Firstly, we are building from the ground-up – we are nurturing the development of community-led finance and insurance products and projects that build coastal and ocean resilience which lock in sustainable financing, are locally led, and climate, nature, and gender positive.

We are tackling the ‘missing middle’ – we are enabling greater private sector investment into impact-driven coastal and ocean resilience, particularly in emerging markets and SIDS, which deliver a market-based return.

And finally, we are delivering a Sea-Change from the top-down – we are developing the Sea Change Impact Financing Facility (SCIFF) – a global ocean financing ecosystem necessary to deploy private sector, sovereign, and regional level investment at scale.

The lack of an investable project pipeline is the single most mentioned constraint identified by potential sustainable blue economy investors as a barrier to their engagement.  So today, we are excited to be announcing a new Call for Proposals supported by the United Kingdom’s Blue Planet Fund, as we search for the next generation of finance and insurance projects and products that will drive investment into coastal and ocean resilience in the Global South. 

We will also soon announce the finalists of ORRAA’s 2023 Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge (ORIC) – watch this space!  With support from the Swiss Re Foundation, the UK’s Blue Planet Fund and the United States, this new project cohort will be part of a growing global community of practice, incubating entrepreneurial ideas that move the dial on locally-led coastal investment.

Mia Kami, a young Tongan singer/songwriter speaking last year to a group of ocean leaders during the Our Ocean Conference in Palau, said, “I’m not a scientist instead I am a storyteller. Like my ancestors before me, our stories speak of ancestral connections to land and to the ocean… If we fail to protect our oceans, we are failing to preserve our people, our culture, and our identity and we are watching everything unfold. The sea levels are rising, the ocean is getting warmer, cyclone after cyclone, more frequent and more severe. Every natural disaster gets worse for us. You are here as leaders and it is your responsibility to ensure that you leave the healthiest ocean possible.”

It is our common responsibility to invest in Planet Ocean, to invest in our common future, and our common home. Happy Earth Day!

Karen Sack Photo

Karen Sack, Executive Director, ORRAA

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