New roadmap aims to turn the tide on UK marine capital markets – will it spur a global wave of ocean investment?

Crown Estate roadmap outlines actions required by 2030 to address challenges associated with mobilising capital into UK marine natural capital markets and how to overcome barriers to investment

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The Crown Estate has collaborated with a coalition of experts to produce the first roadmap for scaling up finance flows to projects conserving or restoring the UK’s marine ecosystems.

The roadmap emphasises that public finance alone will be insufficient, and private investment is key to scaling the UK’s “high-integrity marine natural capital markets.” However, investors are deterred by challenges such as a lack of agreed terminology, unclear data on benefits, greenwashing risks, and the under-development of marine financial products. (The Crown Estate)

Why does this matter? Marine environments are an integral facet of the UK economy, contributing an estimated £47 billion ($59.7 billion) and supporting over 500,000 jobs.

The Crown Estate roadmap outlines the actions required by 2030 to address challenges associated with mobilising capital into UK marine natural capital markets and how to overcome barriers to investment.

These include approving uniform methods for identifying marine and coastal conservation sites, addressing evidence gaps related to the health of ocean habitats, developing UK-wide codes and standardised approaches to improve marine capital market governance, and launching blended finance mechanisms.

Globally, the blue economy is estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion annually, with this figure expected to rise to over $3 trillion by 2030. Despite this vital economic contribution, and amidst the well-documented ecological and anthropogenic pressures fundamentally altering marine environments, the planet’s oceans face a severe investment shortfall.

For example, delivering Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water – faces an estimated annual financing gap of $149 million. Furthermore, just 1% of global climate finance is spent on ocean initiatives.

The Crown Estate roadmap hopes that improving standards in the UK marine natural capital market “could be a key stepping stone in advancing international efforts to bridge this gap.”

In addition to funding shortfalls, marine environments are often overlooked entirely or given little coverage in international environmental treaties, including the Paris Agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

This marine habitat oversight and emphasis on terrestrial environments intensifies the urgency for a robust, uniform market capable of mobilising and encouraging capital flows into ocean ecosystems.

Despite this oversight, global efforts to raise public and private marine investment and strengthen ocean financing regulation are growing.

COP28 saw several significant marine conservation and restoration financing pledges: from a private investment perspective, the Bezos Earth Fund pledged $100 million in grants to fund conservation efforts and the expansion of marine protected areas across Pacific Island States.

A philanthropic coalition also revealed a $250 million initiative known as the Ocean Resilience and Climate Alliance aimed at advancing ocean-based solutions to climate change, including expanding habitat restoration and conservation efforts.

From a public investment standpoint, 21 countries endorsed the Mangrove Breakthrough Initiative to deploy $4 billion to restore and protect 15 million hectares of mangroves by 2030.

Commitments made at global conferences such as COP have been supplemented by the work of private sector funds, including Ocean 14 Capital Fund. Ocean 14 recently closed €201 million ($217.8 million) to support the mission of funding sustainable solutions to improve ocean health. Investors include Nestlé, HQ Capital, and the Green Earth Impact Fund.