Image by Stéphane Bellerose/UNDP in Mauritius and Seychelles
  • Blog
  • 6 December 2023

Global Public Investment and ocean protection

On 9 December, COP28 will consider Nature, Land Use and Oceans. Marine ecosystems stabilise the climate and support human wellbeing. Can GPI help us conserve and use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development?

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This blog is taken from the report Time for Global Public Investment.

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The state of the world’s oceans and seas is increasingly desperate, from accelerated rates of marine pollution to ocean acidification and major declines in marine biodiversity. Marine ecosystems stabilise Earth’s climate and support an extraordinary array of life and human wellbeing. The UN’s World Ocean Assessment reports however that much of the ocean is now seriously degraded.

SDG 14, life under water, commits countries to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development." At the UN’s recent Biodiversity Conference (COP15), nearly 200 countries agreed to protect 30% of lands, oceans, coastal areas and inland waters by 2030. And following two decades of discussions, the UN Treaty of the High Seas was adopted in 2023 which puts in place a legally binding international agreement to protect marine biodiversity. This is all positive and desperately needed. Less clear however is how these ambitions will be financed.

Current approaches are failing. Recent research suggests that US$175 billion is needed annually to achieve SDG 14 by 2030. However, between 2015 and 2019, just US$10 billion was delivered. Just 4% of the ODA received in 2020–21 by small island developing states – which combined control about 30% of the world’s oceans and seas – supported ocean-related activities.

Currently, the main sources of funds are ODA, philanthropic funds and a few multilateral funds and initiatives like the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund. The UN High Seas Treaty also foresees the creation of a new fund which will be financed through a mix of states’ contributions, private voluntary donations and profits derived from marine activities. These are however a ‘drop in the ocean’.

Stresses on the world’s oceans due to climate change and global population increases are likely to intensify, further increasing financing needs.

The implementation of a Global Public Investment approach could usher in a much-needed transformation in how the oceans and seas are funded. This would work in the following key ways:

  1. Inclusive decision-making on how and where resources are deployed to restore and protect the world’s oceans. This would ensure a fair and transparent allocation across countries, a radical departure from the current approach where aid donors mainly decide on where to deploy funds.
  2. More funds for the ocean via statutory contributions from countries at all income levels, according to ability to pay.
  3. Reduced volatility in public finance available for the oceans and seas. The increased availability of more stable and predictable resources over time could enable longer-term ocean health initiatives to be funded.
  4. A catalytic effect. Increased and reliable transfers for the ocean open up new opportunities to blend public funds with capital from other sources, including the private sector, crowding-in finance from all sources.
  5. Through a common framework, increased international solidarity and commitment, creating long-term public value through the protection and enhancement of one of Earth’s most precious resources.