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WWF, Ørsted Partner to Develop Offshore Wind Farms That Enhance Ocean Biodiversity

The unique partnership aims to advance offshore wind deployment that enhances ocean biodiversity, and drive a global shift towards addressing both climate and biodiversity goals.

Climate change is accelerating biodiversity loss, as crucial ecosystems are hit hard by the impacts of a warming world. Our oceans play a significant role in climate change mitigation; but they are not in good health — and their ability to absorb enough carbon to help avoid climate disaster is at risk. More and more potential solutions are emerging to help restore ocean health; but in the meantime, the renewable energy transition is central to tackling these interlinked crises.

So, Ørsted — voted the world’s most sustainable energy company this year by Corporate Knights — has launched a five-year global partnership with WWF to integrate action on both climate change and biodiversity by advancing offshore wind infrastructure that strives to achieve a net-positive impact on biodiversity. Ørsted and WWF will jointly identify, develop and advocate for offshore wind deployment initiatives and approaches that not only are in balance with nature but also enhance biodiversity.

The solutions delivered during the five-year partnership will support both Ørsted’s 2030 biodiversity ambition and WWF’s call to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

An integrated approach

In this decade, the global installed offshore wind capacity is expected to increase by a factor of seven — a helpful development on both the climate and nature fronts, as it replaces polluting fossil fuels. The climate and biodiversity crises are deeply interconnected; but they are still often addressed independently, without considering the impacts or the synergies.

“The planned expansion of offshore wind risks having a negative impact on biodiversity if done in the wrong way,” says Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “However, if done right, it can support and enhance ocean biodiversity and create a net-positive biodiversity impact. This is why this partnership is so important to developing offshore wind energy with a net-positive impact on the ocean. It’s ambitious, but it’s absolutely necessary.”

Ørsted Group President and CEO Mads Nipper says: “Governments are accelerating the build-out of offshore wind energy to end their dependence on fossil fuels and power the world sustainably. 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.”

To that end, the partnership will:

  • develop and test tangible initiatives that improve ocean biodiversity

  • develop science-based recommendations for how governments can incorporate ocean biodiversity requirements into offshore wind development

  • work to bring together those who use the ocean and those who seek to protect its health, and deliver on a common vision for a decarbonized energy system that exists alongside marine life protection and restoration.

New solutions needed

One key issue is how to make space in the ocean for both increased marine life and increased offshore wind energy. The goal of this partnership will be finding renewed and innovative approaches to ecosystem-based marine spatial planning that take an integrated approach to meeting climate and biodiversity goals, and to drive forward the international debate and collaboration needed to bring about this fundamental global shift.

To kick off this work, Ørsted and WWF will invite leading experts to discuss the best way forward at a joint event at COP27. One ambition for the partnership will be to have nature protection and restoration implemented in future offshore wind 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. 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) — two species considered important ecosystem builders, as the biogenic reefs they form provide vital habitat for a wide range of other marine species.

Over the past 15 years, Ørsted has transformed from a fossil fuel-based energy company to a global leader in renewable energy — even changing its brand identity in 2017 from DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas) Energy to Ørsted to reflect its divestment from oil and coal. 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 percent 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 offshore wind installations improve ocean health, Ørsted has set an industry-leading ambition to deliver a net-positive biodiversity impact across all new renewable energy projects it commissions from 2030, at the latest. This move builds on long-standing efforts to minimize known impacts such as those associated with installation — the partnership with WWF builds on efforts Ørsted has already taken on this front to improve project design and sustainability of materials and implement monitoring systems designed to protect and conserve endangered species such as tropical coral reefs in Taiwan and the North Atlantic right whale.