Every year we emit 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, threatening ecosystems, livelihoods, and ultimately human existence. With 197 countries endorsing the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees, countries are having to act now. New technologies and initiatives are continuously being researched and developed, with the overarching goal of reducing our emissions and the impact on our climate. Yet there is one solution that is often overlooked: nature.
Nature-based solutions have the potential of providing 37% of the reduction in emissions needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees. These solutions simply allow nature to do what it does best – capture and store carbon. It doesn’t involve complex designs or intricate technologies; it is as simple as planting a tree. These are low-cost solutions which can rebuild themselves again and again, allowing us to repair the climate and mitigate any future impacts.
The most obvious example of nature-based solutions is trees. Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, ultimately reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and thus decreasing global heating. This solution doesn’t only involve planting new trees; it can also involve protecting and restoring existing forests across the globe. It is thought that in the UK we need to plant 1.5 billion trees to help reach zero emissions by 2050. Doddington North in Northumberland is a great example of reforestation project. Formerly a sheep and cattle farm, it has recently been converted to a huge woodland with 680,000 trees, providing an incredible carbon capture opportunity as well as encouraging wildlife. Here at Avon Energy Partners, we provide the opportunity for our clients to offset their emissions in the Doddington North project.
Whilst trees provide vast carbon capture and storage opportunities, there are other nature-based climate solutions that have similar capabilities. Mangroves, peat bogs, marshes, sea grasses, swamps - these are all examples of where we can use the power of nature to mitigate climate change.
Lets take a look at seagrasses…
Sea-grasses live in sheltered areas along coast lines. These plants can sequester carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Seagrasses cover just 0.2% of the seafloor, yet they sequester 10% of the carbon in the ocean every year. Not only are they great at capturing carbon, but they also provide a sheltered habitat that is vital for marine life. There has been a rapid loss in seagrasses across the globe in recent years. Restoring sea grass provides a great carbon capture opportunity.
WWF, Sky Ocean Rescue and Swansea university are collaborating to undertake a huge seagrass restoration project. One million sea grass seeds are being cultivated to plant in Pembrokeshire, where they will become a 20,000m2 seagrass meadow.
Nature-based climate solutions not only offer a simple and low-cost method of storing and reducing carbon emissions, they also improve biodiversity, restore ecosystems and provide socioeconomic benefits. Seems like a total win-win right? Yet only 2% of all funding for tackling climate change is being used on nature-based solutions. Increased awareness and understanding is needed to move countries away from default mitigation strategies and scale up nature-based solutions. The post-pandemic economic recovery could provide an opportunity for governments, businesses and investors to support the implementation of nature based solutions as a way of building back our climate in a resilient way.