OCEaN Energy & Nature Framework

Context of the Energy and Nature Database for the North Sea and Baltic Sea

Nature and climate emergency

In the midst of indivisible nature and climate emergencies, the expansion of offshore wind and Europe’s degraded seas must be tackled jointly. OCEaN was established to facilitate proactive and collaborative action across all offshore users. The solutions to nature recovery and net-zero include marine spatial planning (e.g. find sea space for renewables and avoid ecological impacts), large scale conservation action from governments (e.g. tackling the pressures causing nature declines) and the establishment of a clear evidence base to inform sustainable development (e.g. increase certainty for developers). Here we focus on the potential for enhancing nature as part of development.

Background

The objectives of the European climate, energy and environmental protection must be reached simultaneously in the already crowded seascape. Offshore renewables and supporting infrastructure (grids) are considered a new marine environment player. In the race to reach net zero, this technology is necessarily set to expand at unprecedented scale and pace across our seas, adding pressure to already struggling seas (Greater North Sea and Baltic) failing to achieve good environmental status as required by the EU Marine Strategy Directive. The challenges facing expansion threaten both nature and net-zero, and in order to deploy this technology sustainably, big changes are needed in how we plan and manage our sea space. Furthermore, in addition to the Mitigation Hierarchy, proactive action can and should be taken to restore nature and boost the biodiversity living within development sites. OCEaN aims to share practices that further our understanding with a view to furthering uptake of proactive action and continued innovation in this area. 

The Energy and Nature Database

OCEaN will present practices meeting the agreed criteria in the Energy and Nature Database on the public OCEaN website. The intention is to showcase proactive work to share information and drive innovation in this area of nature recovery. Practices in this database may include stakeholder collaboration (e.g. OWE with NGOs or research institutions) to deliver nature restoration and enhancement, food security to climate mitigation and adaptation.  As this is a relatively novel area, many of the practises presented here are research or pilot projects. Details will be updated as these projects progress and reviewed by the relevant working group to determine if the criteria are still met. Due to variations in European seas’ conditions, measures may not all be replicable across the entirety of OCEaN; however, it may be possible to implement principles in different regions for the benefit of alternative species and habitats.  

Practices selection and evaluation

OCEaN’s I&E WG members have prepared and reviewed this database against a list of 12 agreed criteria (see the list below). The ultimate aim is to have a collection of practices demonstrating possible actions across all the agreed criteria and continued innovation to deliver for nature and climate.

Mitigation hierarchy.png

-Please note that the categorisation of the real-life examples here just has an indicative character so far and would need to be further discussed in the WG, in case this categorisation is taken up by the working group-

OCEaN will use the database to share information with relevant actors who are active in all European Seas (traditional and new users of the sea) in order to influence and inspire their work by inviting them to replicate or improve the efforts presented here. Raising awareness among policymakers and the general public are other important groups that we aim at by presenting the Energy and Nature Database.

List of criteria for the Nature and Energy Database practices

  1. Ecosystem services
  2. Scientifically based
  3. Climate mitigation
  4. Climate adaptation
  5. Conservation of the biological diversity
  6. Stakeholder engagement
  7. No negative social effects
  8. Coastal resilience
  9. Co-existence
  10. Net positive social effects/potential for economic opportunities and green jobs
  11. Open data
  12. Adaptability