A clean ocean is a healthy ocean, and the growing plastic problem is one of our key research areas. We do not believe that the answer is to ban plastic. We have to use plastic and all other materials smarter and more responsible and reduce the supply of plastic and other waste to the sea. Food waste is the cause of 14 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions and packing food in plastic helps reduce this. But the plastic must be reused, recycled or disposed of correctly if it is not to become a new environmental problem. In Europe, only 30 percent of the plastic is recycled, and the figure is even lower worldwide. We also lack knowledge about how plastics affect life in the sea. We know a lot about the occurrence, but little about the adverse effects on animal and plant life.

The climate changes that face us if we don’t do profound changes to our society is of great concern.  To reach the Paris agreement before 2050, the world must have net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and in the years following negative emissions – this means that we must capture and store more greenhouse gases than we can emit. Otherwise, the consequences are likely to be fatal for millions.

The ocean has suffered and will have many symptoms of climate change. But with research and development of ocean industries, the ocean will also provide us with many of the solutions we need. SINTEF Ocean is an interdisciplinary research institute that works towards our vision “Technology for a better society”.  We believe that the marine industries are an under-communicated opportunity that will help make a difference. Here are some examples from some of our research areas:

Maritime transport is already the most energy-efficient way of transporting large quantities of goods, and the potential has not been reached. New types of fuel, better ships, smarter operations and logistics will contribute even more, but renewable energy needs to be built faster.

Eating fish is a climate friendly measure if it replaces red meat. Increased processing and export of frozen products will further reduce the climate footprint. Today, the aquaculture industry use feed with a large climate footprint – soy and anchoveta – produced in South America. Development of more sustainable feed resources will make a substantial improvement on the industries climate footprint. Right outside our coast is an obvious possibility: Harvesting plankton species such as krill, as well as fishing mesopelagic fish species, has tremendous potential as new feed resources. Sustainable harvesting of these will require good management systems and new technology for harvesting and processing.

Kelp is among the world’s fastest growing biomass. In Norway, we have an emerging industry in the production of kelp. According to the UN Climate Report, we need new technologies and bio resources to reach the climate goals – also to be able to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Given limited land areas for biomass cultivation, the sea with its enormous volume and good productivity can become a very important factor in this context.

More than new technology and good business models are required if we are to achieve the climate goals. In addition, much political courage is required. If this is done, we feel confident that the ocean can bring us solutions to the climate challenges.

Article Provided by Vegar Johansen, CEO, Sintef Ocean

To find out more about the impact plastic is having on our marine environment, and to hear more about some of the innovative businesses working to resolve this global crisis, join our event BLUE opportunities on the 9thOctober 2019.