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Our parliamentary blue carbon champions

3 minute read

Politicians call for ocean-based solutions to combat climate crisis on World Ocean Day

A cross-party group of parliamentarians have pledged to be ‘Blue carbon champions’, supporting the Marine Conservation Society’s call for a four nation blue carbon strategy, recognising the value of marine and coastal ecosystems in tackling the climate crisis.

Blue carbon champions include the Conservatives’ Sally-Ann Hart, Labour’s Kerry McCarthy, Lib Dem’s Lord Teverson and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas. The champions have come together in support of the Marine Conservation Society’s goal to scale up financial and policy support for blue carbon habitats.

In order for the UK to meet its current national and international commitments on biodiversity and climate change by 2030, ocean-based solutions to the climate crisis must be formally recognised and embedded into UK climate change policy. Ambitious action must be taken to rewild and protect blue carbon habitats.

The charity’s recent report in partnership with Rewilding Britain, Blue Carbon – Ocean-based solutions to fight the climate crisis, outlines the importance of ocean-based solutions in helping the UK to reach its goal of net zero by 2050, and 2045 for Scotland. By protecting and rewilding marine ecosystems, blue carbon stores will have increased capacity and ability to store carbon.

The report called on the UK Government and devolved administrations to develop a comprehensive four nation Blue Carbon Strategy focusing 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.

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. The Marine Conservation Society wants to see the same support for ocean-based solutions.

The charity’s report is supported by the results of a recent poll, carried out by nfpSynergy, which found that 59% of those surveyed recognised the important role that a healthy ocean plays in regulating our climate and reducing climate change. The ocean’s vital role in fighting the climate crisis is recognised through the report, and by the public, and the group of cross-party Blue Carbon Champions shows that policymakers are now listening and taking action.

Humpback Whale mother and calf in waters near Tonga Michael Smith ITWP

Credit: Michael Smith ITWP via Shutterstock

International Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith: “The world is finally waking up to the vital role that nature, including ocean habitats, can play in the fight against climate change. So I warmly welcome the focus of fellow parliamentarians on this all-important issue.

“Through the UK-led Global Ocean Alliance, we are building international support for a significant expansion of marine protected areas. As the hosts of the G7 and climate conference COP26 this year, we are pressing for increased investment in nature-based solutions to tackle climate change, including coastal ecosystems that will also help make communities more resilient in the face of climate change.”

This World Ocean Day, the Marine Conservation Society's Blue Carbon Champions are highlighting the critical role the ocean plays in fighting the climate crisis, and calling for urgent action from the UK Government ahead of COP26.

Sally-Ann Hart (Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye): “On World Ocean Day, I'm calling for the protection of our seas to be a top priority in our battle against climate change. Ahead of COP26, we have a window of opportunity to turbo-charge efforts to rewild our waters and effectively manage our protected areas, to safeguard coastal livelihoods, restore blue carbon habitats and reduce emissions on our path to net zero."

Kerry McCarthy (Labour MP for Bristol East): “If we are to achieve net zero emissions, we can’t just focus on technological solutions and changing behaviour; we also need to promote natural carbon solutions, and that means recognising the immense value of our seas and blue carbon habitats like coral reefs, seagrass and kelp.

“This Government has been talking for a long time about ocean preservation, but we are far from achieving the effective network of Marine Protected Areas around the UK that we need. Now is the time for the Government to invest in nature-based climate solutions and implement an ambitious Blue Carbon Strategy.”

Caroline Lucas (Green MP for Brighton Pavillion): “Any strategy for addressing the climate and nature crises must account for our marine environment. The UK’s saltmarshes and seagrass beds are absolutely vital, not just for biodiversity but for storing carbon too. However, there is currently no plan to protect and restore them.

“The Prime Minister says we can’t afford dither and delay, yet the health of our ocean continues to decline. The Government urgently needs to develop an ambition Blue Carbon Strategy to put our ocean on a path to recovery.”

To read the Marine Conservation Society and Rewilding Britain’s report, please visit the charity’s website. You can also find more information about the cross-party Blue Carbon Champions.