Advocating for a Blue Economy Investment Facility

A Blue Economy Investment Facility and associated process would allow governments to accelerate, focus and strengthen moves towards a genuine Blue Economy approach. They would be able to utilize their and private sector expertise and orientate, develop, and tender projects and initiatives which deliver improved livelihoods, improved environmental quality, and improved spending of investment flows - Fishermen at work, Little Bay, Jamaica. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Fishermen at work, Little Bay, Jamaica. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Terry Waghorn
ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands, Nov 21 2018 (IPS)

I recently connected with Felix Dodds and a colleague of his Chris Tomkins about the development around how the Blue Economy prior to the Kenya Government’s international conference (26-28 November) on the subject. Felix is a global sustainable development leader who has worked on sustainable development for more than two decades observing and participating in international development meetings, including the negotiations on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which the Blue Economy is part of and asked for his take on why and how the business and finance community should get behind them.

Terry Waghorn: We are now three years into implementing the Sustainable Development Goals one of which deals with the Oceans. For many people the term the Blue Economy is new. What does it mean?

Felix Dodds: The Blue Economy is the sustainable use of oceans, their coastal and estuarine hinterlands, as well as lakes and associated areas which embrace key sectors such as seabed mining, port development, fisheries, energy and tourism. It is a new frontier for sustainable investments.

This Blue Economy approach is key to the development of coastal, oceans, and lakeside areas, putting growth, jobs and the natural resource base on a sustainable footing. Done well it has the potential to release the estimated 12 trillion dollars of oceans goods and services in a sustainable way.

Governments, particularly in emerging economies, working in partnership with the private sector and need to make full use of the substantial foreign investment flows and loans available, can get ahead of the game and guide coast and ocean development in a sustainable and profitable manner.

This Blue Economy approach is key to the development of coastal, oceans, and lakeside areas, putting growth, jobs and the natural resource base on a sustainable footing.    Done well it has the potential to release the estimated 12 trillion dollars of oceans goods and services in a sustainable way.

Terry Waghorn: What could be done to bring together investment in this area to support addressing the challenges of the Blue Economy?

Chris Tomkins: We are suggesting the establishment of a Blue Economy Investment Facility (BEIF) this would mobilize greater investment to address the challenges in the Blue Economy. Such a BEIF would be created by a partnership of governments, the finance sector and other relevant stakeholders.

The aim of the BEIF in a country would be to develop a pipeline of bankable projects that catalyze sustainable investment requiring close public-private cooperation. This cooperation would inter alia utilize the UN”s  Guiding Principles on People-First Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)..

The structure of a Facility would of course depend on national circumstances. For example, Some governments have Blue Economy units which could be re-oriented towards a mandate for securing Blue investment, aligning investment partners with projects, utilising national and regional expertise and best practice, and ensuring that investments contribute to an ongoing Blue Economy process.    Governments can move quickly to such an integrated focus given that the various elements for so doing are in in place.

Terry Waghorn: Is there really a business case for Blue Economy Investment?

Felix Dodds: We do believe that the time has come for a more robust and sustainable approach to Blue Economy Investment. There are a number of underpinning and linked elements in making this cass. Perhaps the most obvious for business is managing risk.

This means proper valuing of the resources provided by oceans, coasts and lakes effectively.   We need robust valuations – and much work has been done on this which could enable is to move forward looking at the stream of ecosystem, growth and livelihood benefits, which flow from investing in the Blue Economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference

The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and is being co-hosted with Canada and Japan. The aim of the conference is learn how to build a blue economy that harnesses the potential of the world’s oceans and waterbodies in order to improve the lives of all.

This helps provide fund managers, investors generally, lenders, businesses and indeed governments with a necessary rate of return rationale, and effective risk management to satisfy fiduciary duties to shareholders, donors and other stakeholders.

Terry Waghorn: How is this reflected in effective valuation?

Chris Tomkins: Because sustainability arguments are more effectively mainstreamed into lending decisions there is greater willingness by the private sector – corporate and institutional – as well as national and multilateral sectors and donors – to invest in sustainability over significant periods of time.

Private investment recognizes increasingly the need for longer time lines in making investment decisions consistent with the requirements of sustainability and profitability. Sustainability has become a more core concept for many businesses, as more and more, report on their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.

Terry Waghorn: What do governments need to do to enable this to happen?

Felix Dodds: Governments need to provide the right enabling environment for private investment and wider borrowing flows.  It is particularly important when much investment will be large scale and, to some extent, of the nature of a public good.

This would include major infrastructure, such as improved water quality; sewage management and storm damage control; harbour, tourism and fishing fleet development; and energy production and sustainable mining.

Finally, A Blue Economy Investment Facility and associated process would allow governments to accelerate, focus and strengthen moves towards a genuine Blue Economy approach.    They would be able to utilize their and private sector expertise and orientate, develop, and tender projects and initiatives which deliver improved livelihoods, improved environmental quality, and improved spending of investment flows.

Appropriate investment principles, recognized by the international community of donors, lenders and other investors can help consolidate the process and drive it forward in a sustainable manner.

Terry Waghorn is Founder and Managing Director of Katerva, one of the world’s largest ‘human neural networks’ dedicated to innovation. The network brings together entrepreneurs and innovators, academics and researchers, business and thought leaders, ministers and policymakers, NGOs, governments, and investors intent on improving the state of the world.

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