16 September 2019

Blue Carbon program receives AFR Higher Education Award

A citizen science project funded by HSBC is supporting ground-breaking research into blue carbon reserves stored in coastal wetlands.

HSBC’s citizen scientists have joined forces with Earthwatch and the Blue Carbon Lab to explore the potential of coastal wetlands to capture and store carbon.

HSBC, the Blue Carbon Lab (Deakin University) and Earthwatch Australia have been awarded an Australian Financial Review (AFR) Higher Education Award for Industry Engagement*, recognising a partnership that is addressing how business can play a role in mitigating against climate change.

Funded by HSBC, the three parties are delivering a citizen science project that is empowering businesses in Australia and New Zealand to understand how they can invest in a sustainable future, whilst also advancing Blue Carbon Lab’s research on coastal wetlands and climate change.

Connecting business with the environment

Cassandra Nichols, CEO of Earthwatch Australia, commented:

“This partnership connects business people with the environment, to better understand how decisions in the boardroom can positively impact climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“They also contribute to cutting-edge research by Deakin’s Blue Carbon Lab on the remarkable capacity of coastal wetlands to help mitigate climate change, and improve human well-being. The program has improved climate change literacy within HSBC and helped employees to get their hands dirty – literally,” she said.

Dr Peter Macreadie, lead scientist for Blue Carbon Lab, added:

“The fact that this program won an award, let alone happened in the first place, would defy most people’s expectations. We were approached by HSBC with an absurd request – to take 500 of their employees and external stakeholders from Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland out of the offices for a day and throw them into nature.

“We jumped at the opportunity to partner with HSBC and Earthwatch Australia. We study coastal wetlands – the armpits of the coast! It’s not every day we get a fresh and fully loaded army of people ready to jump in the wetland mud with us.”

Hamish Kelly, HSBC Head of Global Banking and senior sponsor for the partnership said:

“HSBC has committed to invest at least USD100bn into sustainable finance by 2025. It’s important for our people to understand the opportunities and risks as we actively seek to transition to a low-carbon economy. This partnership allows us increase this understanding, while our citizen scientists have contributed to more resilient ecosystems and carbon sinks.”

HSBC employees collect soil samples as part of efforts to promote water ecosystem protection and restoration.

Going blue for a green future

Funded out of the HSBC Water Programme, a global USD150m investment in water, the project is investigating blue carbon reserves stored in coastal ecosystems, and how it plays an important role in mitigating climate change.

HSBC is also partnering with Blue Carbon Lab to deliver a project in the Great Barrier Reef catchment to understand the blue carbon stocks that exist there, and also to understand why there is more blue carbon in some places than others. This will help define how these coastal areas should be managed to deliver the best possible outcomes, particularly in an area that is already under siege from the impact of climate change.

What is blue carbon?

“Blue carbon” is carbon that is captured and stored in and around water in environments such as sea grass meadows, salt marshes and mangroves. Much like “green carbon” that refers to carbon bound by trees and green forestry, blue carbon takes its name from its surroundings – the deep blue of the sea.

Despite the benefits of blue carbon ecosystems, they are some of the most threatened ecosystems on Earth, with an estimated 340,000 to 980,000 hectares destroyed each year. The funding and volunteering hours pledged by HSBC is helping to arrest the decline of these ecosystems, which could help turn the tide on climate change.

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For more information about the HSBC Citizen Science project visit the Blue Carbon Lab website

Learn more about HSBC’s global sustainability commitments

*joint award winner with Southern Cross University for a program titled ‘Farming Together’