Environmental Justice Foundation Urges World Leaders to Commit to Marine Preservation
More than 3,000 scientists, politicians, public figures and others have added their names to a call for the protection and restoration of ocean and coastal ecosystems to be included in climate policy. The open letter, which is led by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and supported by 66 partner NGOs, will be presented to governments around the world in September ahead of the COP26 climate talks, to be held in Glasgow, UK, this coming November.
According to the EJF's open letter, protecting ‘blue carbon’ – the carbon dioxide contained within marine ecosystems – is a 'golden opportunity', as global marine stores contain around 49 times the amount of carbon dioxide as is present in the atmosphere and more than half of biological carbon is captured by marine wildlife.
However, blue carbon stores are at serious risk if left unprotected, and are currently neglected in climate policy. The current annual loss of seagrass is estimated to release around 299 million tonnes of carbon every year, rising to 450 million tonnes for coastal wetlands. Globally, almost 30 per cent of all seagrass has been lost, and the UK alone has lost a staggering 92 per cent of its seagrass meadows to pollution, dredging, bottom trawling and coastal development.
The letter makes three demands for increased blue carbon protection and urges national leaders to:
- Include specific, legally binding targets to protect and restore blue carbon environments
- Commit to the '30x30 Ocean Protection Plan' to designate 30 per cent of the ocean as marine protected areas by 2030
- Agree to an international moratorium on deep-sea mining to protect the deep sea from irreversible, large-scale harm.
'The ocean gives us every second breath we take, and absorbs around a third of the CO2 we pump out,' says executive director of EJF Steve Trent. 'Nature-based solutions like restoration and protection of marine habitats will both help us meet global decarbonisation goals and prevent the worst impacts of global heating while also protecting the lives and livelihoods of the 3 billion people who depend on marine biodiversity around the world. Our political leaders must recognise the urgency of the climate crisis and take truly bold, transformative action to reach a global zero-carbon economy.”
Professor Paval Kabat, IPCC assessment reports lead author and inaugural research director of the UN World Meteorological Organization says: 'The ocean is a central, vital part of our climate system, and it must be recognised and protected as such. The capture and storage of carbon by marine ecosystems is an immensely valuable service. Tackling climate change requires a holistic 'systems approach', recognising that both our marine and terrestrial ecosystems play crucial roles, as well as every part of our society.'