Experts outline how UK can scale ocean investments without greenwashing

Image: Blue Marine Foundation. Pictured: A boat working on a large-scale restoration project in the Solent

The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland – bodies which manage Britain’s seabed – have collaborated with an array of other orgaisations to produce what they describe as the first roadmap for scaling up finance flows to projects conserving or restoring the UK’s marine ecosystems.

Public and philanthropic finance will not be sufficient to tackle the challenge of nature loss in these ocean and coastal habitats, which face challenges ranging from climate change to overfishing, the roadmap emphasises.

Private investment will be key but, at present, investors are deterred by issues such as a lack of agreed terminology, unclear data on benefits, the nascency of related financial products and greenwashing risks.

On greenwashing, the roadmap stipulates that investors are wary of potentially supporting projects that are short-lived and do not deliver their stated carbon and nature benefits – or schemes that are opposed by local communities and/or have unintended negative consequences on social sustainability.

The roadmap states that concerted, collaborative action is needed to address these challenges by 2030. The UK has committed, by this point, to setting 30% of land and sea aside for nature conservation or restoration.

Actions recommended in the roadmap fall under the following categories:

  • Addressing evidence gaps around the benefits of marine natural capital markets
  • Identifying priority opportunities and best-practice methods for conservation and restoration
  • Developing UK-wide codes for ecosystem services, specific to oceans and coasts
  • Developing publicly available, standardised approaches to data collection and management
  • Launching blended (public and private) finance mechanisms for large-scale projects
  • Designing credible plans to scale the UK’s conservation, restoration and sustainable finance workforce
  • Tweaking policies and regulations which undermine investment in this space

Several of the actions detailed need, ideally, to happen by the end of 2025. These include identifying which policymakers have responsibility to lead on scaling naural capital markets and establishing credit buyer and seller alliances that are UK-specific.

A steering group has already been established to spearhead the delivery of the roadmap’s key recommendations.

Organisations involved are The Crown Estate, Blue Marine Foundation, Crown Estate Scotland, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Finance Earth and Pollination.

The Crown Estate’s head of nature and environment Caroline Price said: “We’re so pleased to be launching this roadmap that will bring us one step closer to establishing high-integrity marine natural capital markets in the UK.

“While work is already underway to advance these markets across the four nations, today’s roadmap pulls these different strands together to present a coherent pathway to be used by government, private sector, financial institutions, academia, NGOs, and wider civil society alike, to drive this development forward and unlock investment in marine nature recovery at scale.”

Related op-ed: Project Seagrass on the case for investing in nature-based solutions in 2024

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