Climate change is becoming one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, and a substantial expansion of renewable energy is central to tackling these interlinked crises. The UK government has set an ambition to build 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030, and Ørsted believes that the expansion of offshore wind energy needed to fight climate change can and must integrate solutions that support and enhance biodiversity. That is why Ørsted has set an industry-leading ambition to deliver a net-positive impact on biodiversity across all the new energy projects it commissions from 2030 at the latest.
The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has commended this new pilot project as an example of how restoration of important marine habitats can work in practice and deliver multiple benefits.
Rebecca Pow, UK Environment Minister, said:
"Recent events have demonstrated the importance of developing a home-grown renewable energy supply. We're committed to developing schemes that work alongside the recovery of natural habitats. Climate change and biodiversity loss are significant challenges, and I welcome the commitment Ørsted is making today."
She continues: "This project in the Humber Estuary showcases the potential for private sector investment, alongside support from the public sector. I hope that this is a catalyst for further practical projects that protect and enhance our natural environment."
Benj Sykes, Head of Environment, Consents & External Affairs at Ørsted UK, said:
"Now's the time for action on biodiversity. We know that the climate crisis is one of the biggest threats to our biodiversity, and so we must start to implement tangible projects that will help restore nature.
As a company that's committed to building a clean, sustainable future for people and the planet, we know that we need to work harder than ever to ensure we continue to develop in balance with nature as offshore wind becomes the backbone of the energy system in the UK."
He continues: "With this in mind, Ørsted has set the ambition that from 2030, all new projects commissioned must have a net-positive impact on biodiversity. Our vision is to create a world that runs entirely on green energy, and protecting biodiversity is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the way we work. This project in the Humber Estuary, working in collaboration with experts from the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trusts, is a fantastic example of how the offshore wind industry can work with local partners to ensure we leave our natural environment in a better state for generations to come."
Rachael Bice, Chief Executive for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said: "Large-scale restoration of Yorkshire's seas is the only way forward if we are to tackle the twin nature and climate crises. Through this collaboration with Ørsted, we'll make a transformative step in reversing decades of damage to the ecosystems of the Humber Estuary. Benefitting nature, climate, and people by providing essential habitat, increasing carbon sequestration, and supporting local fisheries, this project sets the standard for marine restoration, and we look forward to it driving further investment in projects across Yorkshire and the UK. We can't wait to share the results in the coming years."
Paul Learoyd, Chief Executive for Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, said: "After spending time over recent years working with partners across the Humber to identify priorities for the estuary and its hinterlands, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is extremely pleased to take forward this work with Ørsted and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The lessons from this work could see large-scale restoration across our North Sea, and beyond. These are exciting times that build on the foundations of all the work that partners have contributed."
The Humber Estuary's conservation status has recently been downgraded due to pollution and loss of habitat, and salt marshes are disappearing at an alarming rate due to rising sea levels and land development across the UK encroaching on coastal areas. Rewilding and reintroducing native species will help restore the estuary and play a vital role in addressing climate change.
In a similar way to trees absorbing carbon from the air, seagrass absorbs carbon from water - and does so at a rate 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Salt marshes are also incredibly efficient at capturing and storing large quantities of carbon, and together, these nature-based solutions can play an important role in climate change adaption and addressing issues such as flood risks.
During the first phase of the project, seagrass seeds will be planted in four hectares of the estuary to provide vital shelter and a nursery ground for a variety of fish. The release of 500,000 native oysters will enable biogenic reefs to form, in tuproviding critical habitat for multiple species while also filtering and improving estuary water quality. 95 % of native oyster reefs have disappeared from the Humber since the early 1900s, and this project will start to rebalance biodiversity in the area. Through this project, Ørsted has also committed to planting and restoring three hectares of salt marsh plants, providing nutrient rich habitats ideal for wading birds. The habitats created by these three vital species will nourish and protect the native wildlife of the Humber.
The Humber pilot is one of a number of innovative projects that Ørsted is exploring to protect and enhance biodiversity. Ørsted is also working alongside WWF Denmark to improve the conditions for cod and other marine organisms in the Kattegat strait between Denmark and Sweden, and together with ARK Nature it is pioneering marine rewilding in the North Sea. The company also recently announced ReCoral by Ørsted, a world-first attempt at supporting coral reefs by growing corals on offshore wind turbine foundations in Taiwan.
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About Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has worked for over 70 years protecting wildlife and wild places, and educating, influencing and empowering people to take action for wildlife. We manage almost 100 of the best sites for wildlife in Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire and North-East Lincolnshire. With the support of our members, we are helping to secure the future of many important habitats and species, making Lincolnshire wilder and ensuring that nature is part of everyone's lives. We are one of 46 locally based Wildlife Trusts with more than 870,000 members and 38,000 volunteers. No matter where you are in Britain, there is a Wildlife Trust. Visit www.lincstrust.org.uk
About Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (ywt.org.uk)
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is the only charity entirely dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring wildlife and wild places in Yorkshire. Our vision is for a Yorkshire that is abundant in wildlife, with more people having a genuine and meaningful connection with nature. We were established as a charity in 1946, and are part of The Wildlife Trusts movement. We look after over 100 nature reserves right across Yorkshire, and are involved in hundreds of other conservation-related projects. Our work inspires people to understand the value of nature and to take action for it.
The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Ørsted develops, constructs, and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, renewable hydrogen and green fuels facilities, and bioenergy plants. Moreover, Ørsted provides energy products to its customers. Ørsted is the only energy company in the world with a science-based net-zero emissions target as validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Ørsted ranks as the world's most sustainable energy company in Corporate Knights' 2022 index of the Global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world and is recognised on the CDP Climate Change A List as a global leader on climate action. Headquartered in Denmark, Ørsted employs 7,016 people. Ørsted's shares are listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen (Orsted). In 2021, the group's revenue was DKK 77.7 billion (EUR 10.4 billion). Visit orsted.com or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.