Shallow waters in summertime in the Hebrides on the West coast of Scotland Joost Van Uffelen

The UN’s latest IPCC report: it’s now or never…but have they forgotten something?

3 minute read

Victoria Riglen

5 Apr 2022

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are rarely cheering. In the latest instance, experts say that despite carbon-cutting measures, the world will still warm by 3.2 ̊C this century.

As a result, it’s easy for the climate fight to feel fruitless. But the IPCC report fails to count a huge player in all of this: the ocean. Our seas capture more carbon than trees. So why is no-one talking about our ocean-based solutions?

Often overlooked, a healthy ocean has the power to support a healthy planet. But we must protect, rewild and invest in it if we are to reap the benefits on land.

PROTECT

Our latest campaign, Marine unProtected Areas, calls for a ban on fishing methods which damage the seabed in so-called Marine Protected Areas. These areas have incredible carbon storing capacity, but are currently experiencing thousands of hours of damaging fishing each year.

Did you know that Dogger Bank MPA, 120 kilometres east of Hull, has the capacity to store the most carbon of all English MPAs – equivalent to 2.5 million return trips from London to Sydney? 

The IPCC report claims that we ‘need more than trees’ to absorb and store carbon. As a planet, we have the capability to absorb and store all the carbon we need – but we need to look after our ocean – so that it can look after us.

While bottom-towed fishing gear is still permitted in sites like Dogger Bank, more carbon is released from the seabed into the ocean, reducing its ability to buffer the effects of climate change.

For the sake of humanity, society, climate, food security, clean waters and the law – we need action immediately. We need an urgent ban on damaging fishing in our carbon-storing Marine Protected Areas.

You can support our call for Government action here.

England's offshore Marine Protected Areas continue to be exploited by fishing methods damaging already fragile seabed habitats.

Last year, supposedly a 'Marine Super Year', saw the UK Government's promises broken as the ocean suffered the consequences.

While damaging fishing is permitted to continue in these protected seas, the ocean's power to buffer the effects of the climate crisis is reduced.

Show your support for a ban on damaging fishing in England's vital offshore Marine Protected Areas to help protect the seabed and combat the climate crisis.

REWILD

Our report, Blue Carbon - Ocean-based solutions to fight the climate crisis, in collaboration with Rewilding Britain, outlined the incredible value of restoring ocean ecosystems for the sake of the climate.

In order to reach net zero, the quantity of carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere and stored in natural solutions must increase. By protecting and rewilding ecosystems in our ocean, blue carbon stores will have increased capacity and ability to store carbon.

Carbon contained in marine and coastal ecosystems must be considered in the same way as our woodlands and peatbogs…critical to the UK’s carbon strategy. Our report outlined how vital blue carbon solutions are to an effective strategy which reaches net zero by 2050.

We’re calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to act with urgency to invest in, co-develop and implement a four nation Blue Carbon Strategy.

You can read more on our blue carbon work here.

INVEST

Investment in ocean-based solutions to the climate crisis is – literally – a drop in the ocean, as evidenced by Deloitte’s research into the topic.

The crucial role of the ocean in climate mitigation and adaptation is largely unrecognised by business and policymakers. As a result, it is underfunded.

Removing and storing dangerous pollution from our atmosphere is made much easier with the support of a healthy ocean, which absorbs and stores 25% of our carbon emissions.

The UK’s seagrasses, muds, sands and saltmarshes alone capture more carbon dioxide than the UK’s woodlands. But without protection, restoration and –crucially –investment, our ocean cannot fight the climate crisis.

25

%

of our carbon emissions are captured and stored by the sea

1

%

global climate finance is spent on the ocean

98

%

of carbon stored in the UK's seafloor is found in areas where there are no trawling restrictions

Much like at COP26 in Glasgow last November, we must once again push for recognition of the ocean in the climate fight.

The authors of the IPCC report conclude that without technology to suck carbon from the air, we cannot reach carbon reduction targets.

Our solution? The ocean. We can combat climate change, but we can’t do it without the ocean.