Published on
August 3, 2023

Why eDNA Will be Crucial in the Marine Race to Net Zero

The race to Net Zero is well and truly underway and, with that, a growing pressure to evolve how our marine industries are supporting this transition.

 min read
Why eDNA Will be Crucial in the Marine Race to Net Zero

We are seeing bold targets being set around the world: The European Union (EU) aims to install 300 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2050, as part of the EU’s goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050; Canada and the United States have both set targets of 30 GW offshore wind capacity by 2030 meanwhile the UK has committed to a 265% increase in offshore wind capacity to 50 GW by 2030.

Alongside these climate-positive targets, landmark biodiversity goals have been set following the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), including the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and the Global Ocean Alliance’s 30by30 targets, calling for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected areas by 2030. The High Seas Treaty has also recently been accepted by the UN, which is the first ever framework for governing a range of commercial activities in international waters and aims to enhance protections for nature in the largest ecosystem on the planet. Business is also rallying to protect nature to secure long term protection of businesses: the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) will be coming out with its version 1.0 framework this year, which seeks to bring nature-related financial risk assessment into the mainstream of financial and business reporting.

These targets setting out the expectations for how businesses operate in the marine sphere are to be welcomed. Yet they present competing needs. There will be significant construction and operational works of offshore renewable energy developments and their networks, as well as the development of coastal infrastructure to service these projects, from substations to harbour terminals and cable laying to service vessel deployment.

With such development comes a greater risk to our natural environment, something which, as the above biodiversity goals highlight, is under more scrutiny than ever. With policy makers, business communities, customers and investors increasingly requiring projects to be more nature-positive, companies who have not needed to report on such progress before might feel daunted. But these requirements present a great opportunity for early adopters of innovations that generate wins for nature and business, combining nature positive ambitions with business growth.

To deliver these nature-positive results, businesses must have access to trustworthy biodiversity data – without it they will not be able to manage legislative risks effectively, remain compliant and make the right decisions for the environment. If they are doing good nature-positive work, such data also allows businesses to demonstrate their credentials externally. Investors in particular are, more than ever, requiring companies they invest in to be able to demonstrate their nature-positive actions.

Why do we emphasise “trustworthy”? Up until now, Reporting in the nature space has largely been based on proxies, models and actions that are assumed to improve biodiversity.

Several emerging technologies are now making the collection of biodiversity data much more efficient, cost-effective, and scalable than before. Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys are leading the way when it comes to biodiversity monitoring innovation, turning the complexities of nature into actionable insights at a fraction of the cost of conventional biodiversity monitoring methods. Organisations have traditionally focused on working out their carbon footprint as the primary method of reporting on their climate impact as this was considered easier to monitor than biodiversity, which is profoundly more complex. But these barriers are now being removed by eDNA, which is enabling businesses to future-proof marine projects against any newly introduced regulatory frameworks and report on their impact at a glance.

The power of eDNA becomes clear when working at scale because the same eDNA technologies can be applied from land to the deep sea. eDNA surveys are often performed in onshore, coastal and offshore project sites to build a comprehensive understanding of biodiversity across business assets.

If you’d like to understand more about how eDNA monitoring can easily be deployed across coastal and offshore projects in the race to be nature-positive, read our latest publication, “Marine Infrastructure for a Nature-Positive Future”, which provides practical guidance about how businesses can meet tomorrow’s biodiversity reporting requirements using eDNA

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