WWF and Ørsted in new global partnership to integrate action on climate and ocean biodiversity
Approaching COP27, world leaders are looking to ocean-based climate action such as cost-competitive offshore wind to contribute as much as 20% of the emissions reduction needed to keep the world on a 1.5°C pathway and increase energy independence from fossil fuels. Oceans already play a significant role in climate mitigation, but oceans are not in good health and their climate mitigation abilities are at risk. This must change to realize the potential of the ocean-climate nexus for future generations.
The world leader in nature conservation, WWF, and the world’s most sustainable energy company, Ørsted, today announced a five-year global partnership [embed link to landing page] to drive a step change in the approach to integrate action on climate and biodiversity by advancing offshore wind that strives to achieve a net-positive biodiversity impact. Ørsted and WWF will identify, develop, and advocate for offshore wind deployment initiatives and approaches that are not only in balance with nature but biodiversity-enhancing.
By 2030, the global installed offshore wind capacity is expected to increase more than fivefold compared to today. This is great news for the climate and for nature as it replaces environmentally damaging fossil fuels.
An integrated approach
The planned expansion of offshore wind risks having a negative impact on biodiversity if done in the wrong way, however, if done in the right way the increased build out of offshore wind can support and enhance ocean biodiversity and create a net positive impact.
To help make that happen, the partnership will:
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International says: “Nature loss and climate change are deeply interconnected crises. It is exciting for Ørsted and WWF to join forces to accelerate new solutions to ensure that offshore renewable energy infrastructure does not affect marine biodiversity.”
Mads Nipper, Group President and CEO of Ørsted says: “Governments are preparing to accelerate the offshore wind energy build-out to end dependence on fossil fuels and power the world sustainably. If done in the right way, offshore wind projects can enhance ocean biodiversity, leaving nature as a whole in better shape than before, and thereby address both the climate and biodiversity crises.”
Over the past 15 years, Ørsted has transformed from a fossil fuel-based energy company to a global leader in renewable energy. The company is well on track to become carbon-neutral in its energy generation and operations by 2025, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by at least 98% compared to 2006. In 2021, Ørsted became the first energy company in the world – and one of only seven companies globally – to have its target of reaching net-zero emissions across its full value chain by 2040 validated by the Science Based Targets initiative.
Determined to ensure that its renewable energy installations leave nature as a whole healthier than before, 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. This builds on long-standing efforts to minimise known impacts, including those associated with installation, improving project design and the sustainability of materials. For example, implementing monitoring systems designed to protect and conserve endangered species such as the North Atlantic Right Whale.
New solutions needed
Addressing climate change and biodiversity loss together allows for a much-needed shift in the way governments, NGOs and businesses work to solve these interrelated crises. Solutions must complement one another, not come at the expense of each other.
One key issue is how to make space in the ocean for both increased nature protection and increased offshore wind energy. A new and innovative approach to marine spatial planning is needed. This partnership will work to drive forward the international debate and the collaboration needed to bring about a global step change in how we think about integration of climate and biodiversity goals and plan to meet them. To kick off this work, Ørsted and WWF will invite leading experts to discuss the best way forward during a joint event at COP27. One ambition for the partnership will be to have nature protection and restoration implemented in future tenders by governments globally.
Marine restoration and best-practice models
The partnership will start with a joint marine ecosystem restoration project in the North Sea, supported by leading academics in this field. In addition to the development of new methods and technologies to benefit the ocean ecosystem, this work will be closely monitored to help refine the best approach to scale-up and deliver offshore wind with a net-positive contribution to marine biodiversity.
This initial restoration project focuses on improving methods to repopulate highly depleted reef-building species at scale in the North Sea, specifically native oysters (Ostrea edulis) and horse mussels (Modiolus modiolus). These species are considered important ecosystem builders, as the biogenic reefs they form provide important habitat for a wide range of other marine species.
The solutions delivered during the five-year partnership will be in support of both Ørsted’s 2030 biodiversity ambition and WWF’s clear call to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
The global partnership is initiated by Ørsted and WWF Denmark.
The role of biodiversity
Biodiversity is the world’s life-support system, and it is being lost at an alarming rate. WWF's latest Living Planet Report highlighted that the world has seen an average 68% drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian populations since 1970. Climate change is accelerating nature loss, as crucial ecosystems and wildlife are hit hard by the impacts of a warming world. The energy transition is central to tackling these interlinked crises.
Net-positive biodiversity impact
Net-positive biodiversity impact means a measurable contribution where unavoidable impacts are minimized and mitigated, and active steps are taken beyond this to enhance biodiversity and restore ecosystems currently under threat from the dual crises of climate and biodiversity.