Blue Earth Forum puts Blue Economy on the agenda

During London Climate Action Week last week I spoke about the Blue Economy at the Blue Earth Forum (part of the Blue Earth Summit) that brings innovators and impact investors together. Well done to Will Hayler, Guy Hayler and team on putting this fantastic event together!

I was on a panel with Shruti Iyengar, Hanli Prinsloo and Francisco Saraiva Gomes talking about the intersection of marine conservation and industrial growth.

Key points:

🌊 Aquaculture produces more aquatic food than capture fisheries and holds huge potential for providing healthy, environmentally safe and socially just food to a growing population.

🌊 However, more often than not aquaculture reflects the extractive production patterns of agriculture with its focus on profit and monoculture, exacerbating pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, nature loss (e.g. via invasive species) and unsustainable inputs (fertilisers, antibiotics, fish meal/oil or soy as feed).

🌊 Aquaculture requires system change towards a just and regenerative future, including transformation in fish feed (to crops from the sea, e.g. algae, seaweed, marine bacteria), circular and cooperative business models, innovations in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems and offshore aquaculture, and a growing focus on unfed mariculture (especially seaweed). Seaweed farming and kelp forest restoration (along with seabed management) need to be better integrated into voluntary carbon markets, for example through the Verified Carbon Standard Program.

🌊 Preconceptions against investing in blue carbon projects include: high risk, long timeframes, small scales, climate risk, lack of investment expertise. However, there is a growing recognition that these ecosystems will play an important part in climate mitigation, and they have started to be included in international climate policies, e.g. Nationally Determined Contributions.

🌊In addition to carbon sequestration opportunities, these ecosystems offer major co-benefits, including climate change adaptation (e.g. coastal protection from storms), food security for coastal communities, and improved water quality.

🌊 There are now lots of exciting case studies of viable blue carbon projects such as Mikoko Pamojo (Kenya) and Vida Manglar (Colombia). However, most focus on mangroves. There is an urgent need to accelerate progress on investment in other blue carbon ecosystems, especially seagrass. In the UK a campaign for a seagrass carbon code has started.

🌊 Blue carbon credits are just one way of financing these vital projects. Others include biodiversity credits, impact investment, impact bonds, regional risk pools, emergency funds, blue bonds and green bonds, debt-for-nature swaps, resilience credits, and blended finance. Insurance products are a critical component, e.g. via resilience insurance, insurance-linked securities, and parametric insurance (a key enabler of other finance flows).

Photo credit: Blue Earth Summit