MyOcean Resources Limited – Written evidence (NSD0018)
ECOPIA – The Blue Solution to Anthropogenic Climate Change
Anthropogenic activity over the last 150 years has thrown the Earth’s carbon cycle out of balance. All the effects of this imbalance, on global temperature, on ocean acidification, on the cryosphere, and on ocean circulation, have now been shown to have positive feedback consequences. The result of solely positive feedback is that these effects are getting more extreme following an exponential relationship with time.
The Blue Ocean ideas company, MyOcean Resources Ltd., believes there is a mechanism capable of solving both the global atmospheric CO2 concentration problem (global warming) and Ocean Acidification (Ocean pH) in one go, using a new nature-based solution (Earth Climate Optimisation Productivity Island Array). In addition, their suggested programme will create enormous new sustainable fisheries, clean up the vast ocean garbage patches and provide hundreds of thousands of well paid jobs. The cost of building the ECOPIA earth ‘Climostat’ is no more than 20% of the cost of implementing the Paris Agreement globally, as estimated by both the IPCC and the IAE, over the next 25 years; more importantly their programme requires only a realistic and globally achievable fossil fuel emissions target until the solution is fully operational and will enable continued global economic growth.
2) Using the ocean to sequester global ‘hard-to-mitigate’ emissions.
Anthropogenic climate change and its many associated impacts, Global Warming, Ocean Acidification, Extreme Events, and unsustainable overfished Fisheries, to name just a few, is a global problem requiring a global solution. No one nation or group of nations is solely responsible and no one nation or group of nations can solve it. However, it is the responsibility of all nations and groups of nations to take leadership in finding, enabling and effecting the solution.
The most relevant ecosystem for effecting a nature-based solution to the climate crisis is the open ocean. The open oceans have only around 3.0 % of the global plant biomass at any one time, but their turnover is rapid. The natural carbon cycle of the earth is evenly divided between the oceans (~ 70% of the Earth’s surface area) and the land at around 90 billion tonnes (109 tonnes) of Carbon as CO2 each; In theory therefore, only a small increase in ocean biomass, to 3.3 %, would be necessary to counter fully the annual anthropogenic emissions of carbon, and more.
The 100 ECOPINS of ECOPIA (www.myocean.co.uk/downloads/ECOPIA.pdf) are designed to handle the total anthropogenic excess Carbon emissions per year as well as providing enough capacity to be able to control the levels of atmospheric CO2. As sufficient atmospheric CO2 is necessary for optimal plant growth, a successful Earth Climostat needs to be controllable, to balance the agricultural needs of the population against an acceptable and desirable global climate. By 2080, through ECOPIA’s regulation, temperatures will have reduced to millennium levels (circa year 2000). International climate regulators will then be able to use ECOPIA to maintain a given climate.
ECOPIA will not require any UK space for the operation of the ECOPINS and their nature based carbon capture and sequestration. Indeed because the ECOPINs will take up just 0.4 % of the massive sub-tropical ocean gyres, they will not require or impinge on any nations’ space directly as they would exist in international waters. However during the construction phase, there will be the need to utilise arable (semi-arid) land world-wide for the growth of constructional crops such as hemp.
During the construction phase it is envisioned that there would be a one off carbon sequestration of 4 billion metric tonnes of Carbon as CO2 through the use of constructional crops. The large oceanic garbage patches could be cleaned up by incorporating the waste within the body of the ECOPINs co-located in the oligotrophic gyres. The demands of construction would create a need for 150,000 well paid jobs, as well as the creation of new intellectual property (IP) and advances in technology. During the operational phase, ECOPIA will be able to sequester in excess of 9 billion tonnes of Carbon as CO2 per year. The primary productivity created will drive new sustainable fisheries that will produce at least an additional 100 million tonnes of fish per year. Each operational ECOPIN is expected to employ in excess of 15,000 people, for operational needs as well as to support additional co-located industries such as trans-shipment.
3) Uncertainties: how to address them and supporting evidence.
The Earth’s large scale Carbon Cycle is well known, however many of the nature based solutions reside in the details of the cycle and these are not always so well known. For just two examples, the concept of pumping deep ocean waters to the surface looked promising, however it carried the problem that the process can’t help pumping the sinking sequestered export carbon (organic carbon) back up to the surface at the same time (Yool et al., 2009). Fertilising the circumpolar Southern Ocean with the micronutrient, iron, was considered for several years, until it generally became recognised that this might not support biodiversity in planktonic species. These uncertainties largely came about from the farming-like practise of changing the composition of the ‘soil’ or in this case the ocean waters. So ECOPIA took a different approach, taking the light down to the natural depths where there are plenty of naturally determined nutrients, now we are no longer ‘farming’ we are simply providing light.
There are still uncertainties of course; what effect will this have on secondary production and the creation of new fisheries ?, Is there a significant lag timescale in drawing increased atmospheric CO2 out of the atmosphere ?. Critically, the scale of the components of ECOPIA make it possible to monitor and to model these uncertainties. Ocean currents, even 100-300 m below the surface of the ocean, move water distances of anywhere from 5 to perhaps as much as 30 km per day; the individual geostationary ECOPINs of ECOPIA are chosen to be circa 50 km, so that measurements of photosynthetic growth, biodiversity, and CO2 uptake can be made over a growth scale of at least 24-48 hours.
Characteristic timescales for diffusion, following Fick’s first and second laws, are traditionally considered to have a slow baseline, for CO2 as much as 6 m/year; however this has never been validated at this scale, either in distance or in such a photosynthetically forced concentration gradient. Furthermore other 3D advective processes and turbulence are ubiquitous in the oceans, these are the equivalent of stirring in a cup of coffee and can speed up the effective diffusive timescale by one or even two orders of magnitude. Recent quantification estimates of coherent three dimensional advection processes (Allen 2017; Frielich et al., 2021) indicate that they could account for a significant proportion of export to the deep ocean of organic carbon, alongside gravitational sinking and turbulent mixing.
As early as the mid 1980’s we knew that anthropogenic CO2 has made it throughout the whole depth of the North Atlantic ocean oligotrophic subtropical gyre (Chen, 1987). From mid 1990’s data (Sabine et al., 2002) anthropogenic CO2 has quite clearly reached a depth of over 1500 m in the Indian ocean oligotrophic subtropical gyre. Assuming an exponential growth in anthropogenic CO2 production since the mid 1880’s these studies provide evidence for an equivalent diffusion timescale of at least order 100 m/year. Even in the most conservative of the oligotrophic ocean gyres, those in the pacific, where the anthropogenic input is perhaps at the greatest distance from its source, the difference from the 1990’s WOCE experiment data and the 2000’s CLIVAR experiment data for delta13 (13C/12C) CO2 concentrations (Quay et al., 2017) indicated an anthropogenic CO2 uptake rate of almost a billion tonnes per year in total, with the largest proportion of this at the subtropical oligotrophic latitudes. And all this before ECOPIA has been built, when the ocean gets a little help from the gentle push of its biological restoring pump.
The final export (sequestration) of the carbon will be to the deep sea and then the deep seabed from whence it came, as a natural deposition with a lifetime of thousands to millions of years. The capacity of the deep sea is enormous with a current store of approximately 37,000 billion tonnes of Carbon (https://www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/CarbonCycle). Mankind has supercharged the respiration and combustion side of the Earth’s carbon cycle; now, through ECOPIA, he can gently enable the natural biological pump to re-balance the system through the photosynthetic side of the cycle.
4) A framework for the regulation and financing of nature-based solutions
A hybrid public-private financing model is critical to solve the global climate crisis. We believe this should be built around a Carbon Credit market. In particular, the Government should create demand for Carbon Credits and should assist in infrastructure financing (to help build effective nature-based solutions). Once constructed, ECOPIA and other private enterprises should be self-financing from operations. In a large part their income would come from the trading of Carbon Credits through regulated exchanges. It is important to understand what benefits we might have from various regulations, and what problems we might have.
i) Creation of Carbon Credit Certificates
All Carbon Credits, for which Certificates would be awarded, must be for ‘blue’ Carbon from a company or scheme that performs truly additive carbon sequestration, and it must be verified as such. The minimum amount of carbon sequestered in this manner to qualify for a certificate should be one metric tonne. Only a limited number of companies should be allowed to create Carbon Credit Certificates. For a company or scheme to qualify for Carbon Credit Certificates we recommend it should sequester a minimum of circa 1000 metric tonnes per annum.
The number of Carbon Credit Certificates should be related to the agreed amount of carbon dioxide that needs to be removed from the atmosphere, this may include historic emissions as well as current emissions. That is, there should be an overall cap on the amount of Carbon Credits allowed, a balance to be ‘paid off’. Over time this cap should reduce as the debt is paid off. At GBP£40 per metric tonne, the size of the global market for Carbon Credits would be GBP£360 billion per year to address the current annual emissions alone. The Carbon Credit market should be a global market.
The market for Carbon Credits should include a futures market. That is, a company should be able to anticipate their carbon sequestration for a 10-year period and sell these futures, with the liability of buying in the current market, if they fail to deliver. Proceeds from the sale of these futures should be used for infrastructure build out and investment only. The companies certifying the Carbon Credits should have a sliding fee based on volume.
ii) Exchanging credits
The purchase and sale of Carbon Credits should be allowed between individual companies, but all purchases/sales should be registered with a licensed exchange. It is our opinion that there should be three coordinated exchanges globally centred on the EMEA, APAC & AMER regions. The exchanges should be allowed to charge a small fee for both current and futures trades.
Only companies that sequester carbon dioxide should be allowed to sell Carbon Credits. We would like to avoid any speculation in Carbon Credits so only companies that need Carbon Credits should be allowed to buy them in regulated amounts. Speculation in Carbon Credits should be illegal. Carbon Credits should expire after a period of 12 months, except for futures credits which should have a fixed start and end date.
Governments, their associated departments and organisations, & publicly listed companies should be required to purchase Carbon Credits of an amount equivalent to their annual emissions of Carbon, in order to achieve ‘Carbon Neutral’ status. Private companies that are required by UK law to submit annual audited accounts to Companies House should also be required to purchase Carbon Credits of an amount equivalent to their annual emissions of Carbon, in order to achieve ‘Carbon Neutral’ status. Both sets of organisations could also voluntarily purchase Carbon Credits to offset their historical debts in order to achieve ‘Net Zero’ status. Smaller private companies could purchase Carbon Credits on a voluntary basis for amounts equivalent to their annual emissions and historic debts.
All trading in Carbon Credits should be reported in company tax returns in their respective countries. All profits made on futures trading should be treated as capital gains, excessive profits as a percent of gross revenue should be treated as illegal speculation. Auditing should include ensuring that all futures contracts are closed appropriately. The exchange should provide a marketplace for both current and futures trading.
5) Key Stakeholders
The key stakeholders for the implementation of nature-based solutions globally, and in the UK, include: Nation state governments and their departments such as DEFRA & BEIS in the UK; Companies and organisations that require Carbon Credits; Companies and organisations that are charged with creating and issuing Carbon Credit Certificates; Providers of the nature-based solutions; Organisations responsible for monitoring and validating the carbon sequestration that occurs; International bodies that will determine the required level of CO2 in the atmosphere via collective agreement and therefore determine the cap on the number of possible Carbon Credits; and the international exchanges of the global carbon market.
It is critical to stop the externalisation of the costs of CO2 emissions by industry and society as a whole. This will necessitate the implementation of regulation requiring that companies obtain Carbon Credits to offset their carbon footprint. The Carbon emissions of companies will need to be monitored and enforcement in place for companies to ensure they have purchased the required amount of credits and that the credits that they have purchased are from truly additive nature-based solutions. A coordinated international effort will ensure that multinationals cannot dodge their obligations and that there is a global response to a global crisis.
It is possible to address the anthropogenic climate crisis and the UK could take a leadership role in showing the way. By using the characteristics of the ocean we can reduce the amount of atmospheric Carbon as CO2 at the same time as de-acidifying the oceans, restoring and creating new fisheries, and maybe most importantly allow the economies of the world to still grow and prosper.
This global crisis does require a global solution, and through the use of a Carbon Credit Market with coordinated, enabling local regulation, the financing of the solution can be through industry itself. The UK led the way in the Industrial Revolution and in so many other great advances; it could also lead the way in solving the current climate crisis.
9 September 2021