Thirty years ago today, world leaders came together to launch the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a bold initiative to foster change in an economic system that was degrading both the environment and indeed entire societies. Today, with the ocean facing unprecedented threats, a similarly bold initiative is required.
The ambition of the EBRD is to use finance and capacity-building to forge competitive, inclusive, well-governed, greener, resilient and integrated economies. We urgently need an equivalent organization for the seas, a true Ocean Sustainability Bank.
Hosted by US President Biden, the forthcoming Leaders Summit on Climate (22-23 April) will bring together 40 world leaders. An initiative of this kind could be launched at the summit and developed further at the G7 meeting taking place in the UK in June and the subsequent meeting of the G20 scheduled for October in Italy.
Putting the ocean on a course towards a sustainable future will require the development of cooperative management and finance mechanisms to address the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss, overexploitation, and lack of effective governance. A joint global approach offers the opportunity to address these interrelated issues in a concerted effort, bringing together the countries most effected by ocean change and those that contributed most to increasing ocean risk to deliver effective solutions. A blueprint for integrated ocean planning has already been put forward by the 14 nations supporting the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy ; now this approach must be applied to the international ocean, with an Ocean Plan for the entire global ocean.
In 2021, the negotiations for three international agreements that are critical for the ocean and the earth ecosystems are due to be concluded, covering the high seas (BBNJ Agreement), biodiversity (CBD post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework) and climate (UNFCC COP 26: Paris Rulebook). A robust financial mechanism is required to ensure the effective implementation of these agreements and to deliver supportive action through governments and the private sector. An Ocean Sustainability Bank could support all these efforts, providing funding and innovative finance approaches that address the needs for ocean data infrastructures, research and science, management and conservation measures and operational effectiveness, as well as putting in place the economic and financial incentives that support blue natural capital investment and the development of a sustainable blue economy for all.
I was honoured to be part of the small team assembled by Jacques Attali, the first President of the EBRD, in 1990 to prepare the launch of the EBRD and had a first-hand view of how, where their values converged, a coalition of statesmen and business leaders could help to establish an institution to facilitate much-needed change within a very short timeframe. I feel that we are in a similar situation today, as Secretary Kerry meets his Chinese counterparts and European leaders prepare for key negotiations for a just transition to climate neutrality and a genuinely Blue-Green Deal for the post-pandemic world. The anniversary of the EBRD’s launch is a reminder that change is possible. Now we must ensure that we do not miss this opportunity for the ocean, the largest habitat of our planet.