UN publishes guidelines for investing in oceans

The UN has releases new practical guidance for banks, investors and insurers to understand the impact on ocean health and transition to a sustainable blue economy.

The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) guidance and toolkit for financial institutions asks institutions to take immediate action on their lending, investment and underwriting activities which negatively impact ocean health.

Major ocean sectors such as tourism, shipping, fishing, aquaculture and marine renewable energy collectively contribute to a ‘blue’ economy, estimated at a global gross value added of $1.5trn in 2010. This is projected to double in size to $3trn by 2030, with some ocean industries set to grow faster than the global economy (OECD, 2016).

With existing financing still largely directed towards unsustainable sectors and activities, it is critical that all sectors of the blue economy are rapidly transitioned towards sustainable pathways.

Leveraging best practice based on input from more than 50 pioneering institutions and experts, the guidance sets out pathways to sustainable growth across five key ocean sectors, chosen for their established connection to private finance. It presents a detailed breakdown of which activities to seek out as best practice, which activities to challenge, and which activities to avoid financing completely due to their damaging nature.

Eric Usher, head of UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), said: “Momentum is building as more banks, insurers and investors wake up to the realisation that their financial activities can have a sizeable impact on ocean health, creating a negative feedback loop for key ocean industries such as shipping, fishing, tourism and marine renewables. A new sustainable pathway for the blue economy is thus both an environmental and economic necessity. This critical new guidance provides a practical toolkit for financial institutions to understand their impact and discover how a new sustainable finance approach can help them identify key risks and opportunities in ocean-linked sectors.”

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