Breath of Clarity

Marine Matters

Original Post by Rachel Hartley:

I have long been interested in marine matters, particularly in relation to climate change and its various impacts on ocean and coastal ecosystems. So I wanted to bring up a topic found under the umbrella of green/environmental finance, sometimes called blue finance, or the idea of a sustainable ocean economy. Just this last week CNN published an article discussing a report released by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which is made up of 14 world leaders and focuses on developing a sustainable global marine economy. The report expands on and supports research the panel dispensed in 2019 that demonstrated how ocean-focused climate mitigation and adaptation actions are a significant component in striving for the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C global temperature rise threshold, providing one-fifth of the necessary cuts in carbon emissions for that goal (Pfeifer 2020). This year’s report asserts that “[e]very dollar invested in a sustainable ocean economy can yield at least five times the return in benefits,” in some cases up to ten times the ROI in the form of economic, environmental, and human health benefits, and promulgates investments in four areas: conservation and restoration of mangroves; reducing carbon emissions from the shipping industry; increasing offshore wind energy production; and increasing extraction and consumption of “sustainable” ocean protein sources (Pfeifer 2020). The panel notes that these four areas provide vital jobs to people in coastal communities and economic security to communities tied to marine ecosystems. Pfeifer (2020) notes that this is nothing to sneeze at since oceans and their resources provide 3.5 – 7% of the world’s GDP, and this percentage is on track to double before the next decade begins.

On the science side of things, these 4 areas are key for sequestering a majority of the earth’s carbon (The Blue Carbon Initiative n.d.), protecting coastal areas against natural disasters including climate-caused sea level rise, reducing the incredible amount of GHG emissions caused by terrestrial agricultural practices (particularly of cattle), and reducing pollutants from shipping practices (Pfeifer 2020). Lead author of the panel’s report and expert ocean economist, Manaswita Konar, wanted to shift the traditional focus on oceans and coasts as victims of climate change and economic strife to a proactive and practical lens of solutions-focused thinking that centers on marine investments, or blue finance. By focusing on marine-based jobs and infrastructure, the global economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and oceanic/coastal climate mitigation and adaptation needs can be simultaneously addressed (Pfeifer 2020). Ocean activism organizations are stressing the importance to governments and stakeholders of not losing sight of solutions-finding for marine challenges amidst the hysteria of the pandemic, encouraging actors not to undo valuable work that had been started and achieved before the global crisis. They are focusing on the promotion of cost-effective ways to address ocean issues that can be applied easily and inexpensively by governments during this tense time, such as maintaining and increasing regulations of fishing caps, equipment, and fishery practices. The core goal is to encourage investment in marine-based climate action that will save nations much more in financial and health terms down the road.


1. Do you think national governments should play a center role in marine/coastal conservation and investment in sustainable ocean economy action, since ocean climate issues will impact all populations in some way and are global threats, or should activism organizations and local and state governments take the lead, as management strategies for each area will need to be individualized?

2. We know the global pandemic is impacting marine-focused initiatives in the present time, but what long-term impacts do you think we might see?

Konar, Manaswita and Helen Ding. 2020. A Sustainable Ocean Economy for 2050: Approximating Its Benefits and Costs. World Resources Institute. Accessed July 22 2020. to an external site..

“Mitigating Climate Change Through Coastal Ecosystem Management.” n.d. The Blue Carbon Initiative. Accessed July 22 2020. to an external site..

Pfeifer, Hazel. 2020. “Ocean investment could aid post-COVID-19 economic recovery.” CNN, July 13. Accessed July 22 2020.

My Comment:

Answer to Question #2:

I love marine matters. I am currently in Research Practices and Applications writing about the extent to which traditional (indigenous) ecological knowledge supports salmon population restoration in the Klamath river, just went rafting a few days ago, and enjoy paddle boarding in the Pacific Ocean.

Anyways, I am amazed blue finance provides one-fifth of the necessary cuts in carbon to reach the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C global temperature rise threshold. Further, it’s remarkable considering the degree to which blue finance brings a return on investment (ROI).

I am interested in the scientific basis explaining the value of conserving and restoring mangroves, as well as how the insight informs climate mitigation policy and allocation of funds. The article (Links to an external site.) I found asserted coastal wetlands (mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses) are increasingly acknowledged as important carbon sinks, based on their ability to sequester large amounts of carbon in their biomass and, more importantly, in their soil (Howard et al 2017). Between 50 and 90% of all coastal wetland carbon, depending on vegetation type, is in the soil (Howard et al 2017). Anthropogenic conversion and degradation of coastal wetlands can lead to major emissions, because much of the carbon stored in soil is released back into the atmosphere and ocean, shifting the wetlands from net sinks to sources of carbon (Howard et al 2017). The vast stocks of stable carbon, as well as the high rates of sequestration, demonstrate why coastal wetlands are well suited for climate mitigation efforts (Howard et al 2017). Further, management strategies exist to integrate them into GHG accounting.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends coastal wetlands should be integrated into national GHG inventories and climate mitigation strategies. To follow the IPCC guidance, countries should conduct national carbon assessments for their coastal wetlands to determine existing carbon stocks and estimates of emissions from converted ecosystems, as well as threats and rates of loss to inform management efforts (Howard et al 2017). These initial steps provide the background knowledge not only needed to inform national policy, but also the development or revision of national strategies to manage coastal wetland carbon sinks and sources.

However, open-ocean ecosystems are predominantly outside national jurisdictional boundaries, hindering inclusion of these marine ecosystems in climate mitigation-related policies (Howard et al 2017). Policy challenges include lack of clarity regarding who would determine and implement management strategies, conduct assessments to support national GHG inventories and receive financial gains, such as carbon credits, resulting from climate mitigation activities. Other marine ecosystem components (i.e. coral, kelp, marine fauna) are not substantial, long-term carbon sinks and their consideration in climate mitigation policies are also limited due to challenges with ownership and a lack of practical accounting methods (Howard et al 2017). Therefore, ownership and accounting are strong determinants of blue finance.


Howard, Jennifer et al. 2017. “Clarifying the Role of Coastal and Marine Systems in Climate Mitigation”. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Vol 15 (1) pp: 42-50.