New Blue Ribbon Panel report provides criteria to restore the health of our oceans

blue-ribbon-panelA coordinated approach backed by governments, businesses and international banks is the only way to save our ocean, says a new report by the Blue Ribbon Panel.

Comprised of esteemed academics, oceanographers, CEOs and conservationists, the Blue Ribbon Panel seeks to guide the investment decisions of the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO).

After months of examining the deterioration of ocean health and the possible solutions, it has identified five key principles by which to guide the GPO’s project investment decisions.

We need the ocean: hundreds of millions of people rely on it for their livelihood, the majority of those in lower to middle income countries. Approximately 80% of the commodities traded around the world are transported by sea. It regulates our climate and drives the weather patterns that determine rainfall patterns, droughts, and floods. Its utility is even more vital now, as climate change begins to take hold: the ocean absorbs over 90% of the extra heat trapped by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.

But we have behaved for centuries as if ocean resources were limitless, and this has caused significant deterioration. Marine ‘dead zones’ are expanding, which is altering ocean currents and the supply and distribution of nutrients. Oxygen levels are decreasing as a result of warming and changing coastal land-use. The diversity and equilibrium of our marine ecosystem is under threat.

The World Bank signalled the severity of the problem when it established the Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO) in 2012, backed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Over 120 organisations, including governments, companies, research institutions, and NGOs have signed on as partners. The GPO aims to coordinate investment and action, putting in place effective and scalable projects around the world to protect and repair our seas. The projects it supports will receive core funding from a newly established GPO Fund, with co-financing from international banks.

The five principles devised by the Blue Ribbon Panel, if accepted by the GPO, will guide the nature, location and time horizons of the projects undertaken.

Blue Ribbon Panel Principles

1. Sustainable Livelihoods, Social Equity, and Food Security

2. Healthy Ocean and Sustainable Use of Marine/Coastal Resources

3. Effective Governance Systems

4. Long-Term Viability

5. Capacity Building and Innovation

Each Blue Ribbon Panel principle is broken down into multiple selection criteria, providing a rigorous framework by which the GPO can assess prospective projects. A holistic approach is emphasised throughout, favouring initiatives which can improve the health of the ocean, protect social equity and livelihoods, and “deliver acceptable economic benefits” to those providing the investments.

To date, solutions have generally been targeted at a single ocean-related issue, rather than taking an integrated approach. The report finds that a continuation of this fragmented method will provide only incremental improvement at best, and be insufficient at worst. Public-private partnerships are identified as a key instrument to achieve this coordination, whether at a higher, governmental level or within coastal communities.

This is, undoubtedly, a global challenge. Our seas are only arbitrarily divided between us: their currents know no nationalities, and as such, deterioration in one area impacts us all.

Now that the Blue Ribbon Panel has delivered its findings, the GPO will move into its implementation phase as it tries to achieve an ambitious but vital goal: to restore the health of the world’s oceans.

About the Author Emily Kenway

Emily Kenway works in the third sector promoting responsible practices by companies and investors. Prior to 2011, Emily was a professional opera singer before following her passion for sustainability into this new career. Her particular interests include the circular economy, environmental impacts, and the food industry.

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