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World Environment Day

Oceans worth up to $222bn annually in CO2 capture

Cambodian activists attend the 42nd World Environment day along a street in Phnom Penh/AFP

Cambodian activists attend the 42nd World Environment day along a street in Phnom Penh/AFP

An Indian labourer checks used plastic bottles for recycling at a recycling station on the eve of World Environment Day./AFP

An Indian labourer checks used plastic bottles for recycling at a recycling station on the eve of World Environment Day./AFP

Cambodian environmental activists dressed as animals walk./AFP

Cambodian environmental activists dressed as animals walk./AFP

BONN - By absorbing carbon emissions from the atmosphere, the seas avert climate damage worth up to $222 billion (163 billion euros) every year, according to an estimate released on Thursday.

Fish catches are worth another $16 billion annually, according to the report by a non-governmental watchdog, the Global Ocean Commission, which hopes that by setting an economic price on the value of international waters, the bounty will be better managed.

The study, coinciding with World Environment Day, was released ahead of two days of ministerial-level talks in Bonn that will seek to remove roadblocks towards a new post-2020 UN climate agreement.

The ocean naturally takes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) though microscopic marine organisms at the surface, which convert the gas to carbon.

The process prevents the gas from adding to global warming although it is also making the seas more acidic, which will have an impact on many ecosystems.

"While the science of carbon sequestration in the high seas is still evolving, we estimate that nearly half a billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of over 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, are captured and stored by high-seas ecosystems annually," the report said.

"Based on current estimates of the economic cost of additional carbon in the atmosphere... we find that the value of carbon storage by high-seas ecosystems ranges between $74 billion and $222 billion annually."

The report said nearly 10 million tonnes of fish are caught annually on high seas, translating into more than $16 billion in landed value.






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