The ripple effect of investing in sustainable oceans

Coastal communities are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Singapore’s Integrated Urban Coastal Management framework and recent announcement of technical studies for the multi-functional “Long Island” reclamation project put the spotlight on accelerating adaptation to the climate reality.

Globally, the ocean featured prominently at the recent COP28 climate summit, given that ocean solutions are critical to fighting climate change.

Policy, innovation and data enhancement continue to drive the blue economy – industries that sustainably utilise and contribute to marine ecosystem conservation for human benefit in a manner that maintains all ocean resources over time – which is worth between US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) and US$6 trillion per year.

The potential impact of investing in the blue economy is much broader than just contributing to life below water, and it is imperative to building a climate-resilient, prosperous and sustainable future.

Why does a sustainable ocean matter?

The ocean produces 50 per cent to 80 per cent of the oxygen we breathe, absorbs 90 per cent of excess heat, and is our biggest natural carbon sink, capturing 30 per cent to 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide produced.

At the same time, ocean industries provide millions of job opportunities, and approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods and part of their animal protein intake.

Pressures on the ocean and the ecosystem services it provides have increased significantly due to pollution, over-exploitation and seascape change alongside climate change.

Citi’s recent research shows that just 13 per cent of the world’s oceans remains untouched by the negative impact of human activities, and an estimated US$27 trillion of marine- and land-based business revenue could be indirectly at risk.

Ocean action is not merely an option, it is our lifeline.

Putting the ocean first

Last year’s World Oceans Day’s theme “Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing” not only highlights the interconnected economic, environmental and social significance of the ocean, but also emphasises the collective need to put the ocean first.

The ocean is one of our most important ecosystems, yet United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water is among the least-funded sustainable goals. Recent estimates suggest that US$175 billion to US$459 billion in funding is needed per year for a sustainable ocean.

While the public sector and donor communities have been playing a critical role in preserving the ocean, there is still much work to do, given the pace and scale of declining ocean health, and private sector capital can play a catalytic role in addressing the funding gap.

Accelerating ocean actions around the world

Leaders around the world increasingly recognise our dependence and impact on the ocean. Oceans are one of the four key nature realms of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures framework, a globally recognised framework established to factor nature into financial and business decisions.

We see global calls for renewed vigour in ocean protection via various encouraging initiatives, including the Ocean Action in 2023 statement, the creation of a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights and the Global Plastics Treaty which aims to end plastic pollution.

At the recent COP28 with the largest ocean pavilion to date, key positive commitments around sustainable oceans included the Joint Declaration on Ocean and Climate Action which urges countries to consider ocean-based actions in their national climate goals and sustainably manage 100 per cent of the ocean under national jurisdictions.

This declaration complements the world’s first “Treaty of the High Seas” signed by 84 countries as at Dec 18. This is a significant step towards protecting the high seas, which encompasses two-thirds of the world’s oceans, and addresses the issue that only about 1 per cent has been under any protection protocol so far.

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