The Indian Ocean is home to a vast array of marine life but is also under increasing pressure from pollution, overfishing, and climate change. A new set of guidelines released by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) could help unlock the financing needed to protect and restore the Indian Ocean. Blue bonds have the potential to make a significant contribution to the sustainable development of the Indian Ocean. SEBI is developing guidelines for blue bonds in India. Once the policies are in place, blue bonds can finance many projects that benefit the Indian marine environment and economy.

Blue bonds are a type of sustainable bond specifically designed to finance projects that protect and restore the ocean and its resources. They are relatively new financial instruments, but they have grown in popularity recently as awareness of the importance of ocean conservation has increased. Blue bonds are similar to other sustainable bonds, such as green and social bonds. However, they are specifically focused on ocean conservation and sustainable development. They can be issued by governments, development banks or other organisations and purchased by individual investors, institutional investors and other financial institutions. The new guidance from UNEP FI clarifies the eligibility criteria for blue bonds and the key performance indicators that should be used to measure their impact.

How can India benefit?

India is well-positioned to benefit from blue bonds. The country has a long coastline and a vast marine economy. The government is also keen on investing in sustainable fisheries, aquaculture, and marine renewable energy. Blue bonds can play a vital role in supporting these efforts. Blue bonds provide the funds needed to develop and implement sustainable ocean projects, such as clean energy projects, offshore wind farms and wave energy converters, marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, marine pollution prevention and clean-up, etc. The new guidance from UNEP FI provides a clear framework for defining and measuring the impact of blue bonds, allowing investors to make informed decisions about where to invest their money.

Blue bonds can finance projects that protect and restore the ocean and its resources, such as coral reefs, fisheries and marine wildlife. Such bonds help to increase the awareness and importance of ocean conservation.

However, blue bonds are not free from disadvantages and might not serve the intended purpose for the following reasons. These bonds are a relatively new financial instrument, and there is still a lack of liquidity in the market. This can make them more expensive than other types of bonds. Moreover, no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a blue bond exists. This could make it difficult for investors to compare different blue bond projects and assess their risks and returns.

Overall, blue bonds are a promising new financing mechanism that could be used to protect the ocean and its resources. They have the potential to make a significant positive impact on the global environment and economy. With blue bonds in place, India could create a sustainable blue economy that benefits people and the planet.

Saravanan is a professor of finance and accounting at IIM Tiruchirappalli, and Williams is an analyst at Sernova Financial