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Key Takeaways from the Marine Natural Capital Markets plan

Updated: May 16

A new plan aimed at protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems was presented at the House of Commons yesterday.

A first-of-its-kind for the UK, ‘High-Integrity Marine Natural Capital Markets in the UK – A Roadmap for Action is a result of the partnership between The Crown Estate, Blue Marine Foundation, Crown Estate Scotland, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Finance Earth and Pollination and involved over 200 UK and international experts across academia, industry, finance, government and not-for-profits.

Business leaders and ESG professionals in charge of horizon planning for their ESG initiatives may find the following five points from this report of interest.

  1. What's the importance of the marine natural capital to the UK?

  • It plays a crucial role in our health and wellbeing

  • More than 500,000 jobs are sustained by marine and coastal ecosystems

  • With an approximate asset value of £211 billion

  • Marine and coastal ecosystems help regulate climate by storing and sequestering carbon

  • They support unique and extremely important biodiversity systems.

The significant decline or collapse of this ecosystem would have drastic local, national and global consequences.

2. Why is the marine ecosystem under pressure?

Water and land-based pollution, some fishing practices, and rising temperatures, all interfere with the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

This urgent problem was recognised by the COP28 Dubai Ocean Declaration, which emphasised the need for ocean-based climate action.

3. Why do we need new capital markets?

The financing gap to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 14 - Life Below Water is estimated at $149 billion per year.

New successful High-Integrity Marine Natural Capital Markets in the UK could, potentially, help inform market development in coastal communities around the world and help plug that gap as natural capital markets can unlock private and philanthropic funding for the protection and restoration of nature.

'Natural capital markets (also referred to as “nature markets”) provide a mechanism for investment in nature through the sale of units of an environmental outcome – be it carbon sequestration, biodiversity improvements or nutrient cycling – which are delivered by nature projects or improvements to environmental management.'

The Woodland Carbon Code is an example of a voluntary market and Biodiversity Net Gain is an example of a compliance market.

Annick Paradis, Executive Director, Pollination, said:

'As only 1% of global climate finance is spent on the ocean, robust markets are needed to increase capital flow to support global climate and nature goals.'

4. What does 'High Integrity' mean?

Being high-integrity entails delivering 'real measurable value for people and nature' and encompasses the following characteristics (which can be useful when evaluating any ESG project or development):

  • Relies on robust scientific analysis

  • Benefits local communities and engages them in project design and decision-making

  • Emphasises transparency

  • Is integrated with existing systems

  • Requires effective monitoring, reporting, and verification of outcomes to ensure clear, enduring, and additional environmental and social enhancements

  • Uses and presents accessible data

  • Avoids greenwashing

  • Helps develop new skills and supports just transition

Marine Natural Capital Markets need to successfully meet all of these characteristics to win over investor and community confidence necessary for success.

5. The roadmap will take a few years to implement, but in the meantime..

Businesses can begin supporting marine ecosystems in the UK and worldwide without having to wait for the recommendations to be put into action.

If they haven't already, businesses can update their risk registers to include risks associated with the decline of marine ecosystems.

They can also explore potential opportunities that are expected to arise following the adoption of the Road Map outlined in this discussion.

Companies could also explore these organisations that are already making significant contributions to the support of marine ecosystems:

Climate action and ESG strategies of UK-based organisations will not be complete without some effort to protect our marine ecosystems - so they can protect us from the worst climate change impacts and continue to provide food, a livelihood and inspiration to many.

The full report can be accessed here.

Private Goodness offers ESG and climate change training to Boards of Directors, lawyers and foundations. Find out more about services here.

a painting of the sea, the sky and the moon
An oil painting by Olga Murray

Other references from the report:

  • ONS (2021) Marine accounts, natural capital, UK: 2021

  • Green, A.E., et al. (2021) Historical Analysis Exposes Catastrophic Seagrass Loss for the United Kingdom

  • BSI (2024) bsi_flex_701_v1.0_drm_free.pdf (

  • Ecosystem Marketplace (2023) 2023 State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets Report.



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