March 29, 2021

Officials Discuss Ocean Governance, Conservation for COVID-19 Recovery

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

The 12th meeting of the Monaco Blue Initiative took place with a hybrid programme incorporating in-person attendance in Monaco as well as virtual attendance for participants around the world. The MBI holds annual debates among ocean conservation and governance actors to explore challenges facing the ocean and promote a sustainable blue economy.

The MBI was launched in 2010 by Prince Albert II and is co-organized each year by the Oceanographic Institute, Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation, and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. The meeting on 22 March 2021 convened as part of Monaco Ocean Week.

Addressing participants, Prince Albert II said the USD 12 trillion in planned recovery efforts from the COVID-19 crisis, if invested well, could make a vital contribution to ocean protection.

The meeting featured three sessions, beginning with a session on the role of international negotiations for better ocean governance. Panelists said the post-2020 global framework for biodiversity must provide guidance on ocean stewardship. John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said ocean stewardship and climate stewardship are two sides of the same coin. He encouraged creating a future for the ocean that is “biodiverse, climate-resilient, and free from carbon pollution.”

Annick Girardin, France’s Minister of Maritime Affairs, said the global pandemic has demonstrated our dependence on the ocean for our daily lives, and the blue economy must become the cornerstone of post-COVID-19 recovery plans. She advocated for an evolution in the concept of the exclusive economic zone to encompass exclusive economic and ecological zones. She said governments must play a regulatory role to develop blue finance.

In a session on integrating the oceans into corporate social responsibility strategies, private sector representatives discussed challenges for businesses to align with sustainable ocean development, noting for example that the SDGs were formulated primarily for governments and it is difficult for businesses to set meaningful targets that link with the SDGs.

Participants shared experiences in creating a business case for conservation. One said responsible action by businesses is not only about fulfilling legal expectations but about investing more in human capital and environmental resilience. Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, highlighted the European Green Deal, a long-term strategy for growth built on ambitions for carbon neutrality, circular economy, zero pollution, and biodiversity restoration. He recommended the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles as a practical toolkit for sustainable financing of companies in ocean-related sectors. Participants noted the need for companies to contribute to government-led ocean management processes, like the expansion and strengthening of marine protected areas (MPAs), and to support vulnerable coastal economies.

The third session, ‘From Blue Economy to Blue Finance,’ addressed financial mechanisms to support ocean conservation. Carlos Eduardo Correa, Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, said investing in natural capital will not only generate positive impacts on biodiversity, but also reduce economic risks, as most economic sectors depend greatly on biodiversity and ecosystem services. He urged the financial sector to set goals to curb biodiversity loss, bearing in mind the close links with climate change.

The 13th edition of the MBI is expected to be held in March 2022 in Monaco.