World Ocean Summit 2023: Six key takeaways from a remarkable ocean week

Economist Impact’s 10th World Ocean Summit (WOS) wrapped up successfully on March 1st, having convened more than 1,000 delegates and almost 200 high-level speakers in Lisbon to discuss how to build a sustainable ocean economy. Portugal’s capital, with its rich maritime history, was the perfect host city to mark the return of the World Ocean Initiative’s in-person flagship event. This year once again, the summit generated high levels of engagement, energy and enthusiasm.

I had the privilege of moderating many exciting sessions on diverse topics ranging from closing the finance gap to meet SDG14 and scaling private-sector blue finance, to harnessing “blue biotechnology” and developing blue-carbon projects.

My six key takeaways from the World Ocean Summit are summarised in this blog on the World Ocean Initiative website.

The synopsis is below:

• Both speed and scale are required to accelerate ocean innovation, based on a robust regulatory framework as well as sustainable finance.

• The ocean economy ultimately needs to be people-centred—yes, it is about regenerating marine life and harnessing economic opportunities, but without addressing human concerns and aspirations, building a sustainable ocean economy will fail.

• There are huge opportunities for blue carbon. The latest backlash against carbon credits is important: one step back could mean we can take two steps forward.

• The blue economy may provide (the oft-cited) economic output of $2.5trn per year, but it is much larger than that if we consider interconnected value chains that incorporate the ocean economy as well as the ocean’s potential in addressing the three interconnected planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Open innovation is vital in ensuring we harness the ocean’s potential. For that to work, we need to build trust to break down the silos that still hold us back from collaboration.

• Ultimately we need to work together on system change, as the current system has undermined the ocean. We should not be afraid to work on transforming the complex systems that have led to the ocean’s decline, and instead work with systemic players to accelerate ocean regeneration.

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