Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oceans seen as new front to fight climate change

Oceans seen as new front to fight climate change

A construction site at south Coogee beach in Sydney is shown in this August 12, 2009 file photo.

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Preventing the destruction of marine life, from plankton to seagrasses and mangrove forests, could help offset between 3 to 7 percent of current fossil fuel emissions, a U.N. environment report said on Wednesday.

Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:44am EDT

The "Blue Carbon" report found that of all the biological carbon captured in the world, slightly more than half is captured by marine-living organisms.

"Healthy oceans (are a) new key to combating climate change," said the report, which highlighted how marine organisms such as seagrasses naturally absorb greenhouse gases.

Life in seas and estuaries captured and stored up to 1,650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, the equivalent of almost half of the emissions from the entire global transport system, it said.

"We already know that marine ecosystems are multi-trillion dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, coastal defense, fisheries and water purification services," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme.

"Now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change," he said, launching the report in Cape Town.

The report proposed that governments consider a "blue carbon" fund to help protect marine life.

It estimated that between 2 and 7 percent of the "blue carbon" stores were being lost every year due to factors such as pollution and clearance of mangroves for coastal development.

The proposed fund, which would be used to protect and manage coastal and marine ecosystems, could eventually allow the future use of carbon credits similar to that proposed for tropical forests in U.N. climate negotiations.

Steiner did not provide a target figure for the fund, which he said was unlikely to be adopted at a December 7-18 U.N. meeting in Copenhagen to agree a pact to fight global warming.