Oceans have a powerful role in stabilising the earth’s climate again. A 2019 analysis of the World Resources Institution shows that implementing ocean-based opportunities could reduce global GHG emissions by more than 11 billion tonnes in 2050.
Transitioning to a sustainable blue economy requires new cutting-edge technology and resource investment. The following ocean-based solutions have the potential to create new green jobs and businesses in the blue economy.
Ocean-based Renewable Energy
Technologies such as offshore wind, wave, tidal and floating solar. Offshore wind farms are already a reality around the North Sea. However, wave and tidal energy technologies require more policy support for research and development to get the benefits of scale, including lower costs.
Technical and operational interventions are key to reduce GHG CO2 emissions in international and domestic shipping and swapping low- and zero-carbon fuels for diesel and bunker oil. Yet, supply chains and technologies need to evolve to enable ships to switch to new low- and zero-carbon fuels.
While the technology to deploy these changes exists it is being adopted in a limited way due to market barriers and market failures, for this governmental and International Maritime policies need to quickly address these issues.
Blue Carbon Coastal Ecosystems
Nature-based solutions including mangroves, salt marsh and seagrasses that store carbon, and seaweed aquaculture that can be used for fuel, food and feed, offer significant mitigation potential. They also help protect coastal areas from storms and act as nurseries for fish, increasing food security and biodiversity for local communities.
In the short term, we need to focus on conserving and protecting these valuable ecosystems to prevent the release of more of the carbon dioxide that is sequestered and stored in their soil.
Storage of carbon in the seabed has enormous theoretical potential to divert carbon from the atmosphere, but it currently faces significant technical, economic and sociopolitical challenges that must be explored.
Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Aquaculture practices
Reducing emissions from optimizing wild fisheries, replacing feed in aquaculture and increasing the share of ocean-based protein in human diets, could also play a vital role.
Ocean-based proteins are far less carbon-intensive than land-based proteins. Increasing their share in human diets will be essential to help the sector to achieve its mitigation potential. Sustainable growth in seafood production and consumption, particularly from aquaculture, is at the core of these potential benefits. Strategic policy will be required to increase the share of ocean-based food in the human diet.
Figure: Contribution of Five Ocean-based Climate Action Areas to Mitigating Climate Change in 2050 (Maximum GtCO2e). World Resources Institute