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Can the Blue Planet Fund Be Expanded to the G20?

Kaylin Dawe, G7 and G20 Research Groups
July 7, 2021

In the lead-up to the 2020 Cornwall Summit, G7 members championed the phrase "Build Back Better" as their thematic approach. Building back better recognizes the need to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and address pre-existing issues within the members' political systems and beyond.

The pandemic has brought forward the need to confront concurrent crises including the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, global health crises, refugees, and economic recessions. This past year has demonstrated that there are drastic economic repercussions and potential for loss of human life when these situations arise.

As the climate crisis continues, emissions increase and the environment continues to be degraded, natural disasters and diseases become increasingly likely. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change which makes it paramount for world leaders to be mindful of these countries when tackling the climate crisis.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson recognized the connection between climate change and biodiversity loss, and the importance of addressing both, when he stated at the Cornwall Summit: "Protecting our planet is the most important thing we as leaders can do for our people. There is a direct relationship between reducing emissions, restoring nature, creating jobs and ensuring long-term economic growth … The G7 has an unprecedented opportunity to drive a global Green Industrial Revolution, with the potential to transform the way we live."

At the summit, the United Kingdom announced the launch of the Blue Planet Fund, a GBP500 million initiative to support developing countries in protecting their marine environment and coastal regions while simultaneously reducing poverty. It has four objectives: addressing biodiversity, climate change, marine pollution and sustainable seafood.

In regards to biodiversity, the goal is to "improve marine biodiversity and support livelihoods by protecting and enhancing marine ecosystems, reducing pressures and increasing resilience, and enabling sustainable and equitable access to, and use of, these resources." For climate change, the Blue Planet Fund sets out to foster resilience, adaptation and mitigation. It will reduce marine pollution by taking both "land-based and sea-based" measures to improve the quality of life and environment. On sustainable seafood, it will focus on creating healthy ecosystems, preventing the overexploitation of marine life and providing "sustainable inclusive and equitable livelihoods."

However, since the summit, the Blue Planet Fund has been criticized as being "all hot air" as it was previously announced in the UK's Conservative party manifesto in 2019. The UK, therefore, did not commit any new money as the funds will come from climate finance commitments it had already committed to spend over five years. The announcement of the Blue Planet Fund was thus a missed opportunity to allot more money, expand the initiative and provide for more extensive environmental action.

Yet, within the fund's announcement lies a different opportunity, one with the possibility for increased cooperation.

How the Blue Planet Fund will be delivered is still under consideration. But the announcement stated that the UK is "planning a range of programmes at bilateral and multilateral level to deliver the Fund's outcomes." This leaves open the possibility for it to be expanded to other G7 members and their Cornwall Summit guests, as well as G20 members for funding and participation. As the G20 comprises approximately 85 per cent of the global economic output, cooperation and funding could be amplified greatly.

Additionally, expanding the Blue Planet Fund to include contributions from G20 members would mean more funding and diversified knowledge on climate change and biodiversity. This would enable the fund to better identify and address issues affecting the countries it supports, such as "Ghana, Indonesia and Pacific island states." Indonesia, a member of the G20 and a country with one of the longest coastlines in the world, faces losing its capital city Jakarta by 2050 due to rising sea levels caused by carbon emissions. The country could therefore impart its firsthand knowledge to the fund, which could lead to greater efficiency and aid in identifying areas of immediate concern within other countries.

With only four months remaining until the G20 Rome Summit in October, now is the time to reflect and act on how the G20 can build on current environmental initiatives and usher in new ones. The actions we take now will determine the quality of our shared future.

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