“We know that when we protect our oceans we’re protecting our future” (Clinton, 2000). Climate change affects every region on Earth, however, the Global South is particularly impacted and often the least able to afford its dire consequences. With respect to the ocean, since the industrial revolution, there has been an increase in 35% of carbon dioxide, also known as blue carbon. Related to the current climate crisis, an overlooked but potentially significant adaptation and mitigation plan for ocean conservation efforts are microfinance initiatives.
Microfinance (MF) is a crucial development tool for poverty reduction. It allows for self-employment opportunities by providing financial services, including small capital loans, for those living in poverty and previously had no access to formal banks. Overall MF has provided 200 million people access to banks and has spread over all continents.
This TedTalk describes MF by the founder, Muhammad Yunus – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UCuWxWiMaQ.
Green MF is a newer area within MF. This is traditional MF combined with climate adaptation and mitigation efforts, thereby addressing social and environmental issues while achieving a financial return. Historically, climate change appeared as a luxury concern for the MF sector, however, today, it is recognized as a crisis needing immediate attention. In fact, most MF clients worldwide reside in the Global South, and thus are the most vulnerable to climate change.
From microfinance to green microfinance, I would like to present “blue microfinance” – ocean conservation and sustainability embedded in conventional MF projects. It has been established that ocean-based climate action can reduce the world’s carbon footprint by 21%. The five areas of opportunity identified include:
- Ocean-based renewable energy
- Ocean-based transportation
- Coastal marine ecosystems
- Fisheries, aquaculture, and shifting diets
- Carbon storage in the seabed
As such, I propose that blue MF develop initiatives within these five categories geared towards benefiting those in the Global South already experiencing the impact of ocean-related climate change. For example, Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation and particularly vulnerable to climate change. Tuvaluans are considerably dependent on the marine ecosystem. Following the areas of opportunity outlined above, blue MF institutions may provide Tuvaluans loans to invest in ocean-based non-extractive renewable energy sources (i.e. tidal energy or Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion), marine aquaculture production (i.e. crustaceans and finfish), and more. These two examples of blue MF projects capitalize on the entrepreneurial capacity of Tuvaluans, contribute to ocean conservation, and generate a sustainable income for these people.
The climate crisis is arguably the most pressing threat today; one untapped remediation effort is blue MF. The ocean is vital for life – from the oxygen we breathe to the water we drink. If we can utilize innovative solutions, such as blue microfinance to further protect our ocean, we must.
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