A report released by The Marine Conservation Society in partnership with Rewilding Britain outlines the importance of the UK’s seas in helping the UK to reach its goal of net zero by 2050 (2045 for Scotland).
In order to reach net zero, the quantity of carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere and stored in natural solutions must increase. By protecting and rewilding ecosystems in our oceans, blue carbon – the storage of carbon in marine habitats – stores will have increased capacity and ability to store carbon.
Marine ecosystems like seagrass meadows, saltmarshes and mangroves absorb or ‘draw down’ carbon from the water and atmosphere, just like plants and trees on land. The storage of blue carbon can be in the plants themselves, like seaweed and seagrass; in the seafloor sediment where plants are rooted; or even in the animals which live in the water.
The significant role of the world’s forests in helping to reduce carbon emissions has been formally recognised through numerous initiatives and reforesting projects intended to keep carbon locked into the world’s forests on land. Unfortunately, equivalent solutions in the ocean are often overlooked.
Dr Chris Tuckett, director of programmes at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Our report, Blue Carbon – Ocean-based solutions to fight the climate crisis, outlines how vital blue carbon solutions are to an effective strategy to reach net zero by 2050. We are calling on the UK government and devolved administrations to act with urgency to invest in, co-develop and implement a four nation Blue Carbon Strategy.”
The suggested strategy focuses on three key action areas:
– Scaling up marine rewilding for biodiversity and blue carbon benefits
– Integrating blue carbon protection and recovery into climate mitigation and environmental management policies
– Working with the private sector to develop and support sustainable and innovative low-carbon commercial fisheries and aquaculture.
Globally, the rewilding of key blue carbon securing marine and coastal ecosystems such as seagrass beds, saltmarshes and mangroves could deliver carbon dioxide mitigation amounting to 1.83 billion tonnes. That is five per cent of the emissions savings we need to make globally.
This figure does not include the enormous quantities of carbon stored in fish and other marine life; in marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, seaweeds and shellfish beds; or the vast stores of carbon in our seabed sediments.
Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s chief executive: “We are calling for the rewilding and protection of at least 30 per cent of Britain’s seas by 2030.”
Later this year, the UK will be hosting COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference – in Glasgow. The conference brings together world leaders to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The ocean and its blue carbon stores are a crucial part of the many urgent and varied solutions required to address the climate crisis.
The Marine Conservation Society and Rewilding Britain are calling on UK governments to adopt ocean-based solutions at pace and scale by 2030.