Climate Change

The potential impacts of climate change are well-established. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2593  outlined future risks and opportunities for adaptation to climate change. It identified key risks in relation to the ocean and the coast, as including: 2594

  • the distributional shift of fish and invertebrate species
  • decrease in fisheries abundance and catches at low latitudes and within coastal boundary systems
  • reduction in biodiversity through coastal inundation and habitat loss due to sea level rise
  • changes in precipitation and the frequency of extreme weather events
  • increase risks to infrastructure through increased frequency and intensity of flooding and coastal erosion due to sea level rise

These risks give rise both to a need to find a means to adapt to climate change, as well as the necessity of pursuing measures to reduce or remove atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon sinks

Carbon sinks act to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through two processes, known as ‘biosequestration’ and ‘geosequestration’. The former is a biological process which results in carbon stores that can eventually be made into biofuels or biogas, while the latter captures and permanently stores gases in a reservoir. 2595  In the marine area, biosequestration occurs through the uptake of carbon dioxide by kelp or seaweed, phytoplankton, dense shellfish, mussel and tube worm beds around hot vents and cold seeps, long-lived mangrove forests and sea-grass beds. 2596

In New Zealand the productive shelf waters of the Hauraki Gulf, oceanic frontal regions such as the Chatham Rise and areas with dense shellfish, mussel and tube-worm beds have been noted as being particularly significant. 2597

The Land Use and Carbon System Analysis project has been implemented by MfE in order to determine changes in carbon sinks. However, the National Inventory system within this analysis does not include considerations of marine based carbon sinks. Such sinks can be considered under the Kyoto Protocol. It does not appear that to date there have been any carbon sink projects based within the marine area in New Zealand but it is plausible that these could occur. Currently, the Auckland Marine Spatial Plan is intending to provide for enhanced coastal and marine sequestration. 2598

As there is no national policy statement in relation to climate change so any related projects would be regulated solely under the RMA and would be contingent on the need to fulfil certain criteria in order to be eligible for benefits arising under the Emissions Trading Scheme for removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Last updated at 2:11PM on February 25, 2015