Serving as secretariat to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, WRI brought ocean health to the forefront of the global economic agenda.

The Challenge

Declining ocean health threatens both biodiversity and humanity. Overfishing, habitat and biodiversity loss, plastic pollution and climate change could cost the global economy more than $400 billion annually by 2050. Even though a healthy ocean could support sustainable and equitable economies and communities, ocean-based tactics have been largely overlooked as a solution to global challenges.

The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) was established in 2018, and its 14 members represent countries with diverse oceanic, economic and political perspectives. Collectively, they account for almost 40% of the world’s coastlines and 30% of exclusive economic zones. The Ocean Panel sought to inspire global political momentum and secure a sustainable ocean economy for future generations.

WRI’s Role

As the Ocean Panel’s secretariat, WRI helped build and coordinate multi-stakeholder action groups. Additionally, WRI convened a network of over 250 experts and contributing authors from 48 countries. This Expert Group produced a comprehensive research series of 16 Blue Papers. WRI also created an Advisory Network, bringing together 135 leaders from NGOs, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector focused on scaling and accelerating action in line with the Ocean Panel’s recommendations. Furthermore, WRI provided leading analytical inputs to the Ocean Panel and authored three notable special reports on climate change solutions, a sustainable ocean economy and a blue COVID-19 recovery – all three were widely quoted by the Ocean Panel heads of state and governments and have helped shape ocean economy recovery policies. More than a year of research culminated in the final Ocean Panel-commissioned report, managed by WRI.

The Outcome

The Ocean Panel has already led to nearly 40 significant commitments and policy changes. Most notably, 14 heads of state and government committed to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean area under their national jurisdiction by 2025, an area the size of Africa and comprising 30% of the world’s EEZs. They also endorsed a set of 74 priority actions to achieve a sustainable ocean economy by 2030. These actions fall under five main pillars – ocean wealth, ocean health, ocean equity, ocean knowledge and ocean finance – and should inspire more global leaders to make the same commitments.