Ocean Action Day at COP26 was marked by a broad set of commitments to provide substantial new funding to defend the quality of the oceans and protect the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on the marine environment.
Opening a round table meeting attended by government ministers, business leaders and island representatives Lord Zac Goldsmith said the oceans were buffers against climate change but they had taken a battering and would continue to take a battering even if the COP summit was successful. The UK international environment minister warned that coral reefs and other marine life would not survive an average global temperature rise of 2C but speaking positively he said, ‘For the first time in my memory I feel we are pointing in the right direction. But we have to get on fast.’
He was co-host at the Resilience Hub on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office alongside the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA).The meeting was given details of the Back Blue Ocean Financial Commitment scheme which is being supported by governments, insurers, banks and philanthropists. The purpose of the meeting was to accelerate the finance essential for building resilience, protecting nature and tackling climate risk.
The urgency of the situation was emphasised by speakers from island nations including Bahamas, the Maldives and the Philippines where extreme weather associated with climate change has already caused land loss and extensive damage.
Maya Delaney from Bahamas told the meeting that climate change was a ‘catastrophe’ that was already happening in the Caribbean. ‘This is a massive moment,’ she said. ‘For the first time the ocean has risen to the top of the climate agenda.’
Goldsmith said nature based solutions were vital to protect coastal areas. He gave the mangrove forests in Colombia as an example. In the aftermath of a hurricane, in areas where coastal mangroves were growing healthily the surrounding hinterland had been protected but in areas where the mangroves had been cut down or destroyed the effect of the storms on life and property had been devastating.
Earlier at the COP, Ecuador announced a huge extension of the marine reserve around the Galapagos Islands in partnership with Colombia and Costa Rica. Among the commitments made on Ocean Action Day were:
- ORRAA is leading an initiative to help design a blue resilience clearing house to help grow the project pipeline for investment and provide a forum for those wishing to invest in verified marine and coastal natural capital, to find investment opportunities. It is hoped that this will provide the framework for millions of dollars of investment over the next decade. The design process is being led by ORRAA member, Palladium and in collaboration with WWF, Bank of America and Convergence Finance.
- The Government of Canada reaffirmed its long-term support of ORRAA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed this week a $9m commitment to the Alliance. This follows the initial $2m seed funding which underpinned the setting up of ORRAA.
- Google announced a $2m commitment on behalf of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to ORRAA for its work with partners to develop an innovative risk assessment tool to help insurers combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a critical threat to the ocean’s health and capacity to cope with climate change. It is being developed by the international non-profits, Global Fishing Watch (GFW), Ocean Unite and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT).
- The UK reaffirmed its investment into ORRAA through the Blue Planet Fund and announced that part of its contribution will be invested into ORRAA’s Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge (ORIC), which seeks to surface new, locally-led finance products which can be scaled to benefit coastal communities across the world. The UK and Swiss Re Foundation’s financial contributions will amount to more than $500,000 to support the Challenge over the next two years.
- AXA XL, ORRAA’s global lead insurance partner committed $1.15m in support of ocean risk research as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science and launched a new, publicly available Coastal Risk Index, which for the first time, showcases the importance of mangroves and coral reefs in reducing flood risk.
- Deutsche Bank, a founding member of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance and the first bank to join ORRAA as a full member, announced the launch of the Deutsche Bank Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund dedicated to ocean conservation and coastal resilience. The bank is committing an initial $300,000 to launch the fund and aims to raise up to $5m from clients and other stakeholders within the next five years. The first initiative to be supported by the fund will be the Future Climate Coral Bank, a research project led by the Maldives Coral Institute (MCI) that is designed to identify coral species that are resilient to climate change and conserve them in a living gene bank.
- Willis Towers Watson, AXA and Palladium are all founder signatories of the Back Blue Ocean Finance Commitment, which is UN-backed and is designed to incorporate the ocean in finance and insurance decisions, especially with its importance in the fight against climate change.
More at ORRAA https://www.oceanriskalliance.org/news/
Main picture: Zac Goldsmith, UK environment minister, and Peter Thomson, UN environment ambassador, with a baton containing signatures from national leaders supporting the aims of the United Nations on climate resilience