Today’s Solutions: October 24, 2021

Investing money towards protecting our oceans isn’t just about saving this precious source of biodiversity. According to a new report, every $1 invested in key ocean actions can generate $5 in economic, health, and environmental benefits.

The report comes from the World Resources Institute, commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, a group of 14 world leaders working toward sustainable policies and ocean protections that also provide economic benefits. This report looks at the benefits of investing in four specific ocean sustainability initiatives: conserving and restoring mangrove habitats, scaling up offshore wind, decarbonizing international shipping, and increasing the sustainable sourcing of ocean-based protein.

Over 30 years, from 2020 to 2050, an investment of $2-3.7 trillion across these four areas would bring about a net benefit of $8.2-22.8 trillion. The report breaks down these benefits into three categories—economic, health, and environmental—but they’re all interconnected, Konar says.

Conserving mangroves, for example, will provide commercial benefits in terms of higher fishery productivity, and will also mean more carbon sequestered from the atmosphere. That’s a clear environmental benefit, but it’s also a health and economic one; with more carbon sequestered and the rate of global warming slowed, communities that live near mangroves will see less frequent storm surges, which could also prevent property loss.

Any health benefits from reduced pollution would lead to more economic productivity. The return on investments does vary for each individual initiative. Every $1 invested in mangrove conservation and restoration generates an economic benefit of $3; $1 in offshore wind could net $2 to $17, depending on the cost to implement that equipment and what type of power generation it would displace. Each dollar invested in zero-carbon-emission shipping yields $2 to $5 in benefits, and $1 towards sustainable ocean proteins bring $10 in benefits. 

This report builds off previous Ocean Panel research that looked at how these ocean solutions could reduce at least one-fifth of the emissions gap required to stay on the 1.5 degrees of warming pathway, but it’s especially timely as countries are putting together their COVID-19 stimulus plans.

Governments around the world have already announced about $10 trillion in stimulus packages, and yet, there’s very little focus on our oceans. WRI researcher Mansi Konar hopes this report will inspire policymakers, businesses, as well as local communities “to think about the choices they have and how we can transition to an economy that protects the people and protects the planet.”

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