A new report is urging the United Kingdom to develop a marine-centred climate mitigation plan to restore and “rewild” degraded marine habitats and develop low-carbon fisheries, noting that the UK’s coastal waters store four times the carbon of its forests.
Co-authored by the UK Marine Conservation Society (MSC) and Rewilding Britain, “Blue Carbon—Ocean-Based Solutions to Fight the Climate Crisis” asks policy-makers to develop an “ocean charter,” writes the London Evening Standard. The report authors are also calling for “specific and ambitious” marine habit recovery targets as an element in the UK’s next Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement.
Support for the establishment of “sustainable and low-carbon fisheries and aquaculture, such as the development of shellfish reefs,” as well as “a plan to halve fisheries-related carbon emissions by 2030” should also be on Whitehall’s climate to-do list, the two organizations say.
“Restoring seagrass, saltmarsh, oyster reefs, and kelp forests would give Britain a huge leap forward in meeting its carbon cutting goals,” the report states. Together, these habitats are “thought to sequester 43,000 tonnes of carbon annually…a rate of between two and four times that of tropical forests,” reports the Standard.
So far, the UK has protected 21.8 million hectares of its oceans—but MCS and Rewilding Britain call these protections little more than “paper parks.” What’s needed, they write, is legislation with teeth.
Specifically, they call for “30% of UK waters to be designated Highly Protected Marine Areas by 2030, with strict limitations on the most damaging activities, such as bottom trawling or dredging.”
MCS programs director Chris Tuckett said policy-makers must consider the carbon stored in marine and coastal ecosystems the same way they do the UK’s woodlands and peatbogs: as “critical to the UK’s carbon strategy.” In the absence of such action, and the default maintenance of the status quo, says the report, “the UK’s sea shelf sediments could lose 13 million tonnes of stored carbon over the next decade.”