The ocean makes up over 70% of the planet surface and is critical to the global climate, biodiversity and human health and well-being. The asset value of the global ocean is calculated to be around US$24 trillion today, providing a significant contribution to the global economy. Yet the governance regime of the High Seas is incomplete.
Marine ecosystems and ocean habitats are under severe threats as a result of human activities, including over-exploitation, climate change and other stressors. Ocean warming, acidification, large-scale species extinction and ecosystem collapses are in sight. A holistic view is needed to address the related risks and challenges. A combination of new multi-disciplinary research, infrastructure solutions and innovative financial instruments will be required to address the climate challenges and increase ocean and coastal resilience in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
Recent international agreements acknowledge the importance of the ocean for the global climate. The Paris Agreement’s Preamble notes the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including the ocean, and the proposed funding mechanisms for mitigation and adaptation are applicable to ocean and coastal solutions. Similarly, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG14) expressly aim to “conserve oceans and seas”. The UN General Assembly is discussing a marine biodiversity agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which will be crucial to address the governance gaps.
The Blue Finance initiative aims to make to strengthen the case for ocean resilience solutions. This requires a multi-disciplinary engagement, including economics and other social and natural sciences with policy and governance to identify and address the underlying drivers and risks. Our aspiration is to help deliver evidence-based interventions, supported by a broad range of stakeholders. The voices of emerging economies in particular need to be fully present in this debate.
The initiative’s objectives are threefold (i) contribute to research and policy discussions on a number of key Blue Finance issues, including - delivery and scaling of ocean science and modelling, technology and infrastructure; progress on regulatory and legal processes; marine finance innovation and institution-building; and supportive policy development, (ii) develop evidence-based set of recommendations for policy makers., and (iii) help develop innovative financing instruments for cost-effective delivery up of blue infrastructure projects.
We have identified an initial list of research and policy thinking, this list will be reviewed on an on-going basis:
Ocean and climate policy interface. Key areas of investigation include adaptation and mitigation finance mechanisms to develop sustainable marine solutions. It will be important to engage with larger developing countries that are most vulnerable to coastal climate risk, such as those adjacent to the Indian Ocean.
Ocean science, marine infrastructure and private investment. An integrated public-sector effort is required, complemented by private-sector engagement to address the problems of innovation and scale, similar for instance to what mission innovation aims to do for clean energy. The Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation is an example of a relevant effort.
A new regulatory framework. A key part of the work will aim to deliver analytical support to those engaged in policy and regulatory processes around ocean governance. To give an example, the proposed UNCLOS implementing agreement covers potentially large-scale area-based measures that will require monitoring and enforcement. These processes may have significant cost and finance implications.
Blue Finance instruments and institutions: Ocean finance can draw on climate funding resources but will benefit from its own set of processes and bodies, including an Ocean Sustainability bank as a funding and knowledge hub.
Proposed outcomes arising from the initiative may include:
(i) Independent research papers that combine global expertise with local knowledge and skills;
(ii) Input into global debates, informing and shaping the new marine regulatory space through conferences, communication/dissemination of results and position papers;
(iii) Strengthening capacity of local research to support senior policy makers in emerging economies;
(iv) Cross-fertilizing research through networks.
This Initiative will be run by LSE IGA, with potential partners to be added. Of specific interest would be a complementary skill sets and regional coverage, in particular from emerging economies.
This Initiative is being developed by IGA Visiting Fellow Torsten Thiele. Torsten has a background in finance and speaks widely on ocean issues. He is an observer in the UNCLOS marine biodiversity negotiations as well as the International Seabed Authority meetings and workshops at European and global level. He launched the NGO Global Ocean Trust and as member of the Ocean-Climate Platform participated in the UNFCCC Paris COP21. Torsten recently co-authorised two academic papers and a number of policy briefs on ocean governance issues.
The Initiative is in a preparatory phase.