UN publishes guidance for financial institutions to invest in ocean health

Banks, insurers and investors have a ‘major role’ to play in financing the transition towards a sustainable blue economy, helping to rebuild ocean prosperity and restore biodiversity to the ocean

Pathway to COP26 report

New guidance for financial institutions to take immediate action on their lending, investment and underwriting activities that negatively impact ocean health has been launched.

The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) believes banks, insurers and investors have a major role to play in financing the transition towards a sustainable blue economy, helping to rebuild ocean prosperity and restore biodiversity to the ocean.

Leveraging best practice based on input from more than 50 pioneering institutions, the market-first guidance sets out pathways to sustainable growth across five key ocean sectors, chosen for their established connection to private finance.

They include seafood, including both fisheries and aquaculture as well as their supply chains, ports, maritime transportation, marine renewable energy, notably offshore wind and coastal and marine tourism, including cruising.

It presents a detailed breakdown of which activities to seek out as best practice, which activities to challenge and which activities to avoid financing completely due to their damaging nature.

The ocean covers 70% of the earth’s surface, holding 97% of all water and 80% of all life forms.

Major ocean sectors such as tourism, shipping, fishing, aquaculture and marine renewable energy collectively contribute to a blue economy, estimated at a global gross value added of $1.5 trillion (£1.07tn) in 2010.

This is projected to double in size to $3 trillion (£2.14tn) by 2030, with some ocean industries set to grow faster than the global economy, according to statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

However, UNEP warns ocean health is under existential threat, faced with the triple crises of pollution, nature loss and climate change, with two-thirds of the oceans negatively altered by human activity, leaving industries, businesses and livelihoods exposed.

Leticia Carvalho, Head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch, UN Environment Programme added: “Decades of unsustainable consumption and production is leading to environmental risks and losses in natural capital, eroding the ocean’s resource base. Without engagement by financial institutions, we will not be able to change the course to sustain a healthy ocean and unlock its enormous potential. $1 [£0.7] of sustainable ocean investments can yield 5x higher global benefits.

“This new guidance can help financial institutions invest in good ocean governance at local, regional and global levels. In a nutshell, making sustainable blue economy opportunities too hard to resist.”

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