24 Jan 2019 - Patricia Scotland - There are new opportunities to invest in the ocean economy. With 95 per cent of the ocean still unexplored by humans, we are only just beginning to understand its profound influence on life on earth, including its effect on global climate and ecosystems.
As we do so, more and more countries are exploring the immense potential of the “blue economy” to build wealth, create jobs and improve lives, and how this can be done in ways which protect ocean health and promote sustainability.
The value of ocean assets (including natural capital) is conservatively estimated at $24 trillion, and the worldwide ocean economy is worth around $2.5 trillion per year. Yet all this is at risk, with marine ecosystems increasingly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and overfishing.
Diversification of traditional sectors such as shipping, commercial fishing and ports to make them more sustainable can unlock further opportunities for innovation which, alongside emerging sectors such as offshore renewable energy, offer attractive prospects for impact investors.
The nations of the Commonwealth are particularly rich in such promising opportunities for innovation and investment. Of our 53 Commonwealth countries, 46 have a coastline, 24 are small-island developing states, and three border great lakes. More than a third of the world’s national coastal waters and 42 per cent of all coral reefs lie within Commonwealth jurisdictions.
The governments of these countries have come together to adopt the Commonwealth Blue Charter, through which they commit to active cooperation on tackling ocean-related challenges and on fulfilling pledges on sustainable ocean development. Through its action group on Sustainable Blue Economy, championed by Kenya, the Commonwealth family of nations is working together to identify good practices, and to connect countries with partners that can help accelerate and scale up such initiatives to make them more attractive to investors.
Examples of innovative developments unfolding in Commonwealth countries include:
The garment and accessory industries are among the most polluting and wasteful in the world. There has been a surge of interest in how their negative impact can be reduced through the use of marine materials to develop bio-alternatives that are more sustainable, and which also add value.
In Kenya, for example, designers and manufacturers are excelling in the $50 billion African fashion industry, producing high-quality fish-leather items made from discarded fish skin. To showcase this, the Commonwealth last year worked with partners to stage a “blue fashion show” in Nairobi, and similar international initiatives are being considered.
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This article was written by Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. To find out more about the Commonwealth Blue Charter, visit: bluecharter.thecommonwealth.org
Image: The Commonwealth Secretariat