In Yokohama, a coastal city just south of Tokyo in Japan, around 100 volunteers have taken a stand against climate change by planting eelgrass in the ocean.

This initiative, originally focused on restoring local marine ecosystems, now plays a vital role in Japan’s strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Utilizing its extensive coastlines, Japan is turning to marine vegetation to capture carbon dioxide, aiming to mitigate its status as the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Marine scientist Keita Furukawa from the Association for Shore Environment Creation emphasizes the dual advantages of the Yokohama project: it not only revives marine ecosystems but also serves as an effective carbon sink. This approach to carbon capture using marine plants offers a unique opportunity given Japan’s extended coastline.

Recognition and Potential of Blue Carbon

For the first time, Japan’s efforts have gained international acknowledgment with the inclusion of seagrass-captured carbon in its annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This move highlights the increasing significance of “blue carbon” – the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.

In 2022, these ecosystems captured approximately 350,000 tons of blue carbon, contributing to a seemingly modest 0.03% reduction of Japan’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, as the nation confronts the decreasing carbon absorption capabilities of its aging forests, the importance of marine-based carbon capture strategies is coming to the forefront.

A Shift Towards Marine Carbon Capture

The Japanese government’s data reveals a 17% decrease in forest carbon absorption over the last five years. In response, there is a heightened focus on maximizing carbon capture through both terrestrial and marine means. Furukawa notes the potential for eelgrass planting to absorb 10 to 20% of human emissions if expanded across all suitable shallow sea areas in Japan.

Japan’s strategy exemplifies a global pivot towards leveraging natural ecosystems for climate mitigation. By championing blue carbon solutions, Japan not only addresses its own environmental challenges but also sets a precedent for other nations with similar geographic characteristics to follow.

As the fight against climate change escalates globally, Japan’s innovative use of marine ecosystems for carbon capture underscores the critical role of nature-based solutions in achieving worldwide carbon neutrality objectives.

Image Source: Power of Positivity