Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) have released a report entitled ‘Tackling the climate crisis through ocean protection’. In it, they make the following key recommendations to the UK Government for tackling the climate crisis through ocean protections (alongside real term emissions cuts through ending the use of fossil fuels):
- Ensure that the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network protects blue carbon stored in the seabed through restrictions on damaging activities, including commercial fishing.
- Deliver Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) which protect blue carbon ecosystems.
- Include blue carbon protections in fisheries policy, including the Joint Fisheries Statement.
- Ensure that blue carbon is protected through marine spatial planning, including the marine spatial prioritisation programme.
- Increase funding and support for projects which build the climate resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems through their protection and restoration.
- Use the Local Nature Recovery (LNR) scheme, Nature for Climate Fund and flooding funding to finance blue carbon protection and restoration.
- Deliver Marine Net Gain to support restoration of blue carbon ecosystems at sea.
- Properly account for blue carbon stores in carbon accounting through the inclusion in the first instance of seagrass and saltmarshes in the greenhouse gas inventory and include ambitious blue carbon habitat protection and restoration targets in the UK Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
- Support international agreements to protect blue carbon around the world.
- Ensure that the ‘blue belt’ programme in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) includes protections of blue carbon.
- Reform the UK Marine Strategy, and integrate blue carbon considerations into other policies, including revised land use policies, to better protect blue carbon habitats.
- Support a science-led strategy through the UK Blue Carbon Forum and invest in better monitoring of blue carbon habitats.
These measures will protect these vital ecosystems which have been found to sequester and store around 2% of UK emissions per year, though this is likely an underestimate (2% is equivalent to emissions from the industrial processes sector which includes activities such as cement production). Effective policies can ensure that this figure rises to sequester a greater proportion of UK emissions.
As Wildlife & Countryside Link launches this report on the policies needed to protect blue carbon, Frith Dunkley, MPA Researcher at the Marine Conservation Society, outlines in a blog the importance of blue carbon ecosystems – Frith’s blog can be read here. The full report can be read here.