Why We Should All Invest In Coral Reefs

Written By: Sofia Perez

Edited by: Sara Gagliardi

In the moral and even spiritual pursuit of a more harmonious balance between human society and nature, there is often a more cynical matter left out of the discussion- money. The battle between the economy and the environment seems to show itself everywhere: expensive organic options, expensive eco-friendly and ethically-made brands, and alas, the large initial investments to establish renewable energy. But what if the narrative was different? 

For a long time standard economic thinking has treated nature as a separate entity. However, a recent government-commissioned report by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta has reviewed the ‘economics of biodiversity’, pointing toward ways in which investing in biodiversity is actually a welfare-enhancing asset to ourselves and future generations. For this reason, the traditional habit of leaving matters such as biodiversity loss out of economic consideration has been a mistake, as it directly affects supply chains on the most fundamental levels. 

Why the Economy Needs Biodiversity. 2021. Bennett Institute for Public Policy Cambridge. https://www.bennettinstitute.cam.ac.uk/blog/why-economy-needs-biodiversity/

Therefore, the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity is not just a matter of maintaining moral integrity, but also a matter of maintaining a socioeconomic balance crucial to the success of our financial systems. Following this logic, one of the most important ecosystems to invest in are coral reefs, which are the metropolises of the sea and shelter nearly a quarter of all known marine species. In fact, over the past 240 million years, reefs have evolved into one of the largest and most complex ecosystems on the planet. 

Yet these facts offer a stark contrast to how much is truly invested in coral reefs today. Indeed, a lack of adequate financial support stands in the way of many solutions to coral reef conservation and resilience despite the fact that approximately 80% of warm-water reefs are found in only 25 countries worldwide. Once again, this not only hurts reefs, but also the billions of people who rely on them for a source of protein, protection from storms, and revenue from tourism. In other words, coral reefs are not just an ecosystem; they are an industry. 

So how can we, as individuals, invest in coral reefs, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet? The first step is to create a stronger connection between people and nature, which are often isolated from each other due to such high densities of people in cities. A renewed connection with nature will not only encourage investment in ecosystem services, but also improve wellbeing and standard of living. 

The next step toward investing in biodiversity is taking part in the transformation of financial systems, which can be done on a local level by engaging with banks and brand promises. One of the main ways to engage with banks is to ensure they abide by the Principles for Responsible Banking, proposed by the United Nations to provide a framework for a sustainable banking system. This prevents funding for ecosystem services from being thwarted by subsidies which hurt nature. Additionally, it emphasises transparency and accountability, which increasing trust in financial systems and is required to enable people to collaborate for mutual advantage. 

The Principles for Responsible Banking. n.d. UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.unepfi.org/banking/bankingprinciples/.

Similarly, to encourage accountability in green products, consumers need to start engaging more actively with labels and ensure that companies stay true to their brand promises. Part of this includes demanding an increased transparency from the insurance industry, which handles all possible litigation risks that might arise from these situations. 

On a societal level, there are another set of conservation finance solutions that can be used to support biodiversity in ecosystems such as coral reefs. One example are blue bonds, in which proceeds are dedicated to projects that benefit the ocean. Similar to this, tourism fees, improved government budgeting, philanthropy, taxes & levies, conservation trust funds, impact investing and new insurance schemes have all offered promising new paths to an economy that places the health of nature at its core. 

To summarize: more biodiversity confers benefits for our wallets too. It is not surprising though, as we need the services of coral reefs to keep a long list of industries alive. This turns conservation from a question of morals to a question of money, and if money makes the world go round…why don’t we use it to our advantage?

Bibliography

“Investing in Nature.” 2021. http://Www.youtube.com. May 20, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2atRjP_nkmo.

“Investing in Nature.” n.d. http://Www.conservation.org. https://www.conservation.org/priorities/investing-in-nature.

“Principles for Responsible Banking – United Nations Environment – Finance Initiative.” 2019. Unepfi.org. 2019. https://www.unepfi.org/banking/bankingprinciples/.

Society, Wildlife Conservation. 2019. “Coral Reef Finance: An Essential Investment.” Medium. April 10, 2019. https://medium.com/wcs-marine-conservation-program/coral-reef-finance-an-essential-investment-5b3c116645b7.

The Principles for Responsible Banking. n.d. UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.unepfi.org/banking/bankingprinciples/.

Why the Economy Needs Biodiversity. 2021. Bennett Institute for Public Policy Cambridge. https://www.bennettinstitute.cam.ac.uk/blog/why-economy-needs-biodiversity/

“Why the Economy Needs Biodiversity.” 2021. Inside Track. February 3, 2021. https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2021/02/03/why-the-economy-needs-biodiversity/.

Cover photo: https://www.conservationfinancealliance.org/gfcr

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