The Crown Estate, Carbon Revenue and Seagrass as a Service
King Charles recently announced that profits from new offshore wind farms on the Crown Estate would be put towards the wider public good. This got me thinking. The Crown Estate owns virtually all the seabed around the UK out to 12 nautical miles, from which much of the benefit accrues to HM Treasury. What other environmental and economic value can come from coastal waters?
Cash and carbon, with benefits
Firstly, the announcement is a powerful reminder of renewable energy’s increasing importance and economic value to the UK, even before energy security is considered. Secondly, it shows one of the roles that the near-shore can play in a profitable path to a sustainable, low-carbon future.
Any discussion of ocean-based environmental benefits leads us to seagrass, a secret weapon in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. According to UNEP, “ Seagrass is a flowering marine plant whose blades form dense meadows in shallow, sheltered areas along coastlines. It has a range of benefits: seagrass acts as a nursery and food source for a wide variety of marine life, provides a home for many fish… protects coastlines by absorbing wave energy, produces oxygen, and cleans the ocean by soaking up polluting nutrients produced on land by humans.”
Seagrass also has the amazing capacity to capture atmospheric carbon, up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Which makes you think that this is a vital resource worth protecting. Sadly, the past century has not been kind to seagrass in the UK. Since 1936 it is estimated 44% of UK seagrass meadows have been lost, and perhaps up to 92% over a longer span. The findings from Green et al., 2021, “demonstrate the vast scale of losses and highlight the opportunities to restore seagrass to support a range of ecosystems services.”
This opportunity has not gone unnoticed, with LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES leading the way in the UK for seagrass meadow restoration, working on 8 hectares of seabed in Plymouth Sound and the Solent. Once the restoration path is proven at scale, the economics of seagrass as offset need to be explored in detail. Particularly with the credibility of existing offset programmes under intense scrutiny.
Seagrass as a Service
It isn’t too much of a leap to think of Seagrass as a Service (SaaS)! This is an area that we are exploring as part of Klere’s Earth platform. Bringing interested parties to invest in verifiable, fast-acting carbon sequestration to the benefit of biodiversity and the UK, matched against thousands of hectares of seabed that are ripe for restoration, whilst at the same time bringing revenue to HM Treasury. What’s not to like?
Posted by Paul Crowe
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