Carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere can be captured, removed, and stored through a process called carbon sequestration. It is acknowledged as a crucial technique for eliminating carbon from the world’s atmosphere. Recently, ZCA covered how the UK is taking technological steps for carbon sequestration. But there are two other natural ways that carbon can be stored: biologically or geologically. Additionally, even while it is promoted artificially through various biological and geological techniques, it also naturally occurs on a massive scale in the environment.[i] The process of biological carbon sequestration involves the storage of carbon in the environment. 'Carbon sinks,' such as forests, grasslands, soil, oceans, and other water bodies, are included in this. This type of sequestration is often referred to as "indirect" or "passive."[ii] Coupled with reductions in the capacity of natural carbon sinks and an increase in anthropogenic emissions, there is capacity within the field to develop nature-based solutions that allow our natural world to meet its emissions-busting potential.
Ecosia is a search engine launched in 2009, they have a simple model wherein the ad revenue profit generated by searches is distributed to forest landscape restoration projects. Since 2009 they have gathered over 20 million users, invested over €36,030,634 and planted over 150,000,000 trees across more than 13,000 sites.[viii] Thirty universities across the world have switched their default search engine to Ecosia, resulting in 211,000 trees being financed as a result.[ix] But it’s not just searches that have helped Ecosia plant trees; in April of 2022, they teamed up with Niantic, the software development company behind Pokémon Go, to plant one tree for every 5km walked by users during community events.[x]
Before and after an Ecosia-funded restoration project
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is a UK-based charity that has realigned part of Somerset's north coast to create salt marshes.[xi] A 4-year study to assess the carbon retention of the marshes found that 67,000 tonnes of carbon were stored over the period, which is equivalent to 32,900 UK cars being taken off the road for one year.[xii] This was a somewhat unexpected benefit of a project that was founded with the intention of improving biodiversity and extreme weather resilience in the area and demonstrates a two-way street from Marcus Aurelius’ famous adage “what injures the hive injures the bee” in this case, what is good for the bee has been good for the hive.[xiii] The project and WWT’s wider goals demonstrate a place for businesses to be involved in these nature-based solutions; HSBC has been involved with WWT with their generations project, which allows children and young people to experience wetlands and learn about their many benefits.[xiv] ZCA is in no way affiliated with the aforementioned businesses, and a discussion of their current projects is not an endorsement.
So with technological carbon sequestration on the horizon but not yet a fully established mechanism for corporate emission’s abatement, nature-based solutions and the possibility for business investment in them offer up an opportunity to store carbon in a natural and eons-old structure that kept our world in balance long before we began to tip the scales.
Oscar is a recent graduate with a background in earth science. He is currently studying an MSc focussing on disaster responses, emergency planning and community resilience. His postgraduate research project will assess the link between climate crisis risk perception and attitudes to green energy projects. “Adapting to the climate crisis through the pursuit of net zero requires community engagement and understanding. Zero Carbon Academy’s goals closely align with this approach and I’m excited to have the opportunity to research and communicate a variety of topics relating to our environment and sustainability”.