Climate Reserves

Blue Carbon Climate Reserves powered by OceanMind

The OceanMind Blue Carbon Initiative is a collaboration with the University of Oxford that aims to create, maintain, and protect oceanic “Climate Reserves” where thriving ecosystems absorb and retain more carbon from the atmosphere.  This “blue carbon” carries a value that as part of a science-based carbon trading scheme will support economic returns to incentivise the establishment of these fully protected marine areas.

Healthy ocean ecosystems are vital for human wellbeing

Over eighty percent of all life on Earth dwells in our ocean, producing over half of the planet’s oxygen.  Three billion people derive their protein from seafood. One in eight people depend on the sea to earn their livelihood. The ocean is crucial to the global carbon cycle, shuttling gigatons of carbon each year between the atmosphere and plankton. The ocean regulates our weather and our climate.  We need the ocean to survive.

Yet the ocean is under dire threat from human activity and the relentless effects of climate change. UNESCO estimates that 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems have been degraded or used unsustainably. Thousands of ocean species are threatened with extinction.

Scientists agree that to nurse the ocean back to health we must establish marine protected areas covering 30% of the ocean, where ecosystems can recover and thrive free from damaging human activities. Healthy ecosystems conserve biodiversity, provide refuge for threatened species, protect critical habitats, and build resilience against other damaging factors, including climate change.

Why is a Blue Carbon Initiative essential?

In 2010, 196 nations committed to protecting 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020, yet in 2020 only 5% of the ocean is fully protected.  Many reasons underlie this slow progress, including the need to fish for food and livelihood, and the difficulty in proving economic value for ocean protection.

To make progress we need to change the incentives for establishing fully protected marine areas, making an ecosystem worth more intact.  Carbon trading is a well-developed approach to offset emissions and has delivered an estimated $82 billion to support climate-stabilising initiatives.  As a marine ecosystem returns to health its biomass grows, amassing more carbon and ‘priming the pump’ to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. 

How does the Initiative work?

The OceanMind Blue Carbon Initiative will advance the science to measure carbon in an ocean ecosystem providing it an economic value.  A tipping point will arise when governments can generate more income from carbon retention than they might from selling fishing or mining rights, resulting in new protected areas being created.

There is already a precedent for blue carbon funds that support coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrass. There is also scientific development on oceanic blue carbon, but more work needs to be done for it to progress from academia to viable programs. Using our collective expertise, we will measure the carbon value of oceanic marine protected areas, looking beyond the seafloor where most of the existing work has focused, to consider the whole ecosystem from the surface down. We will then develop a robust economic framework to underpin a blue carbon fund, engaging with private industry to capitalise it. The OceanMind Blue Carbon Initiative will provide ground-breaking research and enable the world’s first oceanic blue carbon program that will demonstrate financial value for remote marine protected areas.

OceanMind has a unique position connecting governments, private industry, academia, NGOs, and philanthropy in its work to help enforce marine protected areas.  We are currently seeking collaborators in all of these areas to join our initiative.  Click the Work with Us button below to find out more.

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