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THE ISSUES Environment


‘The ocean has not played a prominent role in the carbon debate


until very recently,’ says Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist and adviser to the Biden administration’s Office of Science and Technol- ogy Policy. ‘Now the science is really leading the way and telling us that there is a phenomenal opportunity for the ocean to provide additional ways for us to mitigate climate that simply weren’t on our radar screen before.’


B


ig corporations, entrepreneurs and governments are beginning to step up. Australia, which is home to as much as 32 per cent of the world’s seagrass, mangroves and tidal marshes, has be- come a hot spot for investment. The govern- ment will invest more than US$20 million in blue-carbon projects over the next 35 years, part of a roughly $75 million initiative aimed at protecting the ocean – although centre-right prime minister Scott Morrison has been criti- cised by environmental groups for not moving fast enough to reduce emissions. Australian regulators are also working with scientists to develop their own carbon credit specifically for blue-carbon initiatives. Pollination Group, an Australian climate change advisory and investment firm, is work- ing with private issuers including banks to launch a corporate blue bond with proceeds funding ocean-based biodiversity projects. These could produce ‘blue carbon credits’, which can be sold to the Australian government’s carbon-offset programme.


‘Blue carbon is one of five priority methods being developed in 2021 under an accelerated work programme,’ said a spokesman for Angus Taylor, Australia’s federal minister for energy and emissions reduction. More than 88 million metric tons of abatement has been credited under methodologies developed by the government there, he says. Peter Macreadie, a marine-science professor and head of the Blue Carbon Lab at Deakin University in Australia, adds: ‘We’re going to rely on nature to regain control of the planet’s thermostat.’ In the US, scientists have already restored seagrass on the east coast of Virginia near the Chesapeake Bay, and some members of Congress, including Senators Lisa Murkowski (Republican, Alaska)


There is a phenomenal


opportunity for the ocean to provide ways for us to mitigate climate that simply weren’t on our radar screen before


and Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island), have pushed to investigate further blue-carbon opportunities. In Pakistan, local au- thorities and private investors are seeking to replant more than 800 square miles of mangroves. In Colombia, a project to protect man- groves and marshes was approved by Verra, a US-based non-profit that oversees a carbon-credit programme, as its first blue-carbon conser- vation project. That means the project can issue Verra-certified carbon credits, which represent carbon that has been reduced or removed from the atmosphere. Companies can finance a project to earn car- bon credits or buy the credits as a way to offset their own emissions. In the Middle East, the Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) is developing the Red Sea Project, a 50-hotel luxury tourism destination comprising 92 islands, mountains, sand dunes and dormant volcanoes in a relatively sparse and vast area on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. The Red Sea Project has put regeneration at the heart of its development approach, with aims to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy and to actively enhance the environment with- in two decades. ‘The ambition is to create a 30 per cent net


conservation impact through the development and to exceed what would be the goals and economic outcomes of this area if it was just declared a national park,’ says Carlos Duarte, the report’s author and a marine ecologist at King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia. ‘In


the 21st century the mantra to conserve and sustain the little that is left is no longer acceptable. The ambition TRSDC brings to create net positive conservation value has changed my vision of what role the private sector can play in driving towards a healthy ocean.’ In the UK, the seabed is more valuable as a carbon sink absorbing pollution from industry than as a source of oil and natural gas, esti- mates from the government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. The findings put the value of Britain’s marine ‘natural capital assets’ at £211 billion ($300 billion) and represent an emerging area of research where nations attempt to put a value on the environment. Using conservative estimates, the ONS said seagrasses, muds, sands and salt marshes already capture at least 10.5 million tonnes of car- bon dioxide equivalent a year, with an estimated value of $57.5 billion.


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