Ocean waves breaking on beach

Three reasons politicians are backing blue carbon

3 minute read

Alice Watson

11 Jun 2021

If the UK Government is serious about cutting carbon emissions and restoring the health of our marine habitats, we need strong voices in Westminster for ocean-based solutions.

This is where our Blue carbon champions come in. With support from Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith, so far 15 politicians have signed on in support of our blue carbon campaign, including the Conservatives’ Sally-Ann Hart, Labour’s Kerry McCarthy, Lib Dem’s Lord Teverson, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

They will help us build momentum for ocean-based solutions to the climate crisis in Westminster, by tabling questions and raising the recommendations from our recent blue carbon report in debates and the media.

Salt marshes Laugharne Carmarthenshire Wales James Hine

Credit: James Hine via Shutterstock

So, why are politicians pledging to support our campaign?

1. Meeting net-zero by 2050

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to set a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 (2045 for Scotland). Two years on, more parliamentarians than ever are recognising that our blue carbon habitats, like seagrass and kelp, are just as important as our woodlands when it comes to meeting the target.

As part of a Conservative environmental caucus (CEN), three of our Blue Carbon champions wrote to Lord Deben, Chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), requesting they consider the contribution of our blue carbon habitats to the UK’s net-zero goal. With Conservatives holding a majority in Parliament, this is a positive step towards there being enough political leverage to account for blue carbon habitats within our net-zero strategy.

Sally-Ann Hart (Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye) said: “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."

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

Credit: Michael Smith ITWP via Shutterstock

2. The importance of protecting and restoring all nature

If the government is truly serious about curbing emissions, then we need to back nature-based solutions across the board, which involves more than just planting trees. Our report finds that a newly created saltmarsh locks in much more carbon than the equivalent area of newly planted woodland, and while we are yet to see a blue carbon strategy from government as of yet, we are starting to see parliamentarians waking up to the important role that both green and blue carbon stores play.

Caroline Lucas (Green MP for Brighton and 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.”

Octopus on seabed, Scotland - SCOTLAND: The Big Picture

Credit: SCOTLAND: The Big Picture

3. Holding the government accountable to their promises for healthy seas

When it comes to commitments to marine conservation, the government has definitely talked the talk over the years, but we are yet to see ambitious fast-paced action. In their 2019 Manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to preserve our ocean if they won the election. More recently on World Ocean Day 2021, we saw the government publish its long-awaited response to the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) call for evidence and commit to implementing byelaws to manage fishing activities in all offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2024 – both of which we have been actively campaigning for.

These commitments are huge and if the government delivers on them with pace and urgency, we really could see our waters in better health by the end of the decade. Parliamentarians from the Labour opposition also want to see the government deliver on these promises.

Kerry McCarthy (Labour MP for Bristol East): “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.”

Spiny Seahorse in Seagrass Georgie Bull

Credit: Georgie Bull

Our recent positive engagement with parliamentarians through our blue carbon report has shown us that the question isn’t if there will be political backing for investing in our ocean-based solutions, but when we will see commitments from government.

We look forward to working closely with our supportive group of blue carbon champions to build momentum for the campaign in Westminster and unlock the true potential of our ocean in tackling the climate crisis.

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