Credit to blue carbon: harnessing the ocean’s investment power

Why is it taking so long for businesses and investors to understand that oceans not only present a risk, but an opportunity?

Dive Deeper
Economist Impact – World Ocean Initiative

A guest blog by Chris Gorell Barnes, founding partner, Ocean 14 Capital

On land, the carcass of a dead elephant releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But when a whale dies, the carbon from its body sinks to the bottom of the ocean to become stored as “blue carbon”.

Right there is a natural carbon-capture mechanism that is crucial to mitigating the climate crisis. Indeed, more than 80% of the world’s carbon is circulating through the ocean.

Mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes act as powerful carbon sinks, yet, according to The Blue Carbon Initiative, these ecosystems are being lost at a rate of 1-2% per year, also releasing carbon dioxide in the process.

Despite TV documentaries, the importance of these ecosystems is only now starting to enter mainstream discussions.

A drop in the ocean

But while ocean conservation has even captured the imagination of street artists who have painted massive murals in Margate on the British coast, investment has been lagging: the funding of ocean conservation only represented 9% of financial flows into nature-based solutions last year.

Awareness is clearly not high enough. Of the US$14bn spent on marine projects in 2022, 82% was public money, according to the UN Environment Programme’s 2022 State of Finance for Nature report. So why is it taking so long for businesses and investors to understand that oceans not only present a risk, but an opportunity?

There may be a chink of light with retailers using ocean plastic in their products, such as Adidas’s Parley for the Ocean trainers, and IKEA’sMusselblomma range, but this is—forgive the cliché—“a drop in the ocean”.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water continues to receive the least funding of any of the SDGs, according toUnited Nations secretary-general António Guterres, speaking at the UN Ocean Conference in June 2022.

In 2019 the total commitment to SDG 14 was US$1.92bn, but according to Marine Policy, to make a difference an annual investment of US$174.5bn is needed.

From deep-sea mining and marine heatwaves to overfishing, it is clear the ocean is facing many challenges, so what can be done to drive investments to tackle these issues?

Click here to read more about what can be done to tackle these issues and turn challenges into investment opportunities.