Investors in two-thirds of companies listed globally risk losing US$8.4 trillion because of declining ocean health: WWF

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Climate Change

Investors in two-thirds of companies listed around the world were at the risk of losing US$8.4 trillion – or around a tenth of global gross domestic product (GDP) – due to declining ocean health and climate change if business continued as usual, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Listed companies linked to the “blue economy”, or sectors that can sustainably use the ocean for commercial activity and industries that use coastlines and ports for trade, could face risks to their assets and revenues reaching US$8.4 trillion in 15 years under a business-as-usual scenario, an average loss of US$560 billion per year, according to Navigating Ocean Risk: Value at Risk in the Global Blue Economy, a report published by WWF and Metabolic, an environmental modelling and systems change organisation, last week.

“A healthy and resilient ocean is vital for long-term economic resilience,” said Margaret Kuhlow, WWF’s finance practice leader. “Acting now to put sustainable ocean finance at the heart of responsible, low-carbon investment could save trillions, and set a course for lasting prosperity.”

The overall asset value of oceans currently stood at about US$25 trillion, providing annual goods and services worth at least US$2.5 trillion, according to Kuhlow. In comparison, total global GDP amounted to US$84.7 trillion in 2020, according to World Bank data.

Among the sectors that could be affected, coastal infrastructure faced the greatest risk if no action was taken to improve the situation, with up to US$3.98 trillion in losses over the 15-year period. The global fisheries sector faced losses of US$3 trillion.

Moreover, at least 66 per cent of listed companies within the MSCI All Country World investible Market index, which has close to 9,300 constituents and covers around 99 per cent of all companies listed globally, had a degree of dependency on the blue economy and the health of oceans, the report said.

If the global temperature rise was kept to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, however, the losses to all sectors could be limited to US$3.3 trillion, according to the report.

The projected carbon emissions of the world’s listed companies were, however, expected to cause temperatures to rise by 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the MSCI’s Net-Zero Tracker, a quarterly gauge that tracks the progress of the world’s public companies towards curbing climate risk.

The latest Net-Zero Tracker report was published on Wednesday last week and said the world’s listed companies will deplete their share of the global emissions budget for keeping the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by November 2026, based on their current greenhouse gas output.

Listed companies needed to cut their carbon intensity by 10 per cent each year on average until 2050 to align with a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise, according to the MSCI tracker. However, less than a quarter of the world’s listed companies managed to achieve that between 2016 and last year.

“What we do over the next half-decade – and especially at COP26 in Glasgow – could make the difference between avoiding or experiencing the worst climate impacts,” Henry Fernandez, chairman and CEO of MSCI, said in a statement issued along with the release of the Net-Zero Tracker.

WWF’s Kuhlow also stressed the importance of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

“At COP26, governments have an opportunity to boost both public and private investment in a sustainable blue economy that underpins a net-zero, nature-positive future,” she said.

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