I am delighted to be spending some time in Canada, where I had the pleasure of meeting Catherine McKenna, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change. We talked about the steps Canada has been taking to protect more of the ocean at home and how we can come together globally – you’ll be able to hear us on an upcoming episode of Learning with Richard Branson on Sirius XM soon.
With the ocean facing unprecedented threats, these advances are needed more urgently than ever. Marine heatwaves, melting sea ice, acidification, overfishing and pollution are causing our ocean to change at rates not seen in millions of years, and – in the case of phenomenon like the onslaught of plastic – in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. And these changes bring risks: more extreme hurricanes, rising sea levels, the extinction and migration of entire species, and the devastating loss of live coral reefs. It is heart-breaking to witness the horrors we are inflicting on marine ecosystems. But we must mobilise not surrender.
Ocean risk is a constant, terrifying reality in the Caribbean, the region I am fortunate to call my home. We are experiencing more intense storms, like the hurricanes that hit the region in 2017. Our fishing and tourism industries are threatened by illegal and unsustainable fishing, plastic pollution and coral bleaching. The risks are felt up north in Canada’s part of the world too. The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing even some of the oldest and thickest sea ice to break up and vanish, with massive consequences for marine life, indigenous communities, and geopolitical relations at the top of the world. Around the globe, millions of people are threatened by ocean risks that extend far beyond the coastline to exacerbate droughts, heatwaves, floods and fires hundreds of miles inland.
Governments, businesses, communities and experts of all kinds need to unite to combat and pre-empt these emerging perils of the sea. The insurance industry is an increasingly important partner inreducing our exposure to ocean risks. Ocean Unite, insurance giant AXA XL and Canada have developed a new Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA), looking for innovative financial solutions that reduce vulnerability, build ocean resilience and help protect the most vulnerable regions and communities. People are beginning to take notice. I was immensely proud a few weeks ago when, thanks to Canada’s leadership, our newly-created Alliance was the only initiative to be supported by all G7 members – as well as the EU, India, Mexico, Fiji and Norway – at a meeting of Environment Ministers hosted by France in advance of their G7 Summit this summer. ORRAA’s plans to identify solutions, help bring them to market, and show that investments in nature-based solutions are good for people, business and our blue planet, were just one of the exciting developments I discussed with Minister McKenna.
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