International Forum on Offshore energy and Marine Ecosystems (IFOME)
In 2018, we will be working to set up an International Forum on Offshore energy and Marine Ecosystems (IFOME), which brings together research, NGOs, industry and government during 2018-2023. It’s purpose is to find feasible solutions for how to protect and strengthen marine ecosystems under offshore energy development and transition.
IFOME’s focus is on the North Sea and on ecosystem services. We envisage a 5-year programme with annual summits, where new research and experience from pilot projects in both offshore wind and oil and gas are brought together. In between, North Sea Futures and other partners will work to communicate results, learnings and dilemmas to the wider public and to set up learning and capacity building tools for non-technical stakeholders.
Until now, the following organisations have expressed their support for the IFOME initiative and their willingness to contribute with contents:
- DTU Aqua, DK
- Scottish Wildlife Trust, UK
- World Maritime University, S
- Wageningen Marine Research, NL
- Forum for the Future, UK
- Deakin University, AU
- Ocean Science Consulting, UK
- Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), BE
- Sunil Murlidhar Shastri (Ocean Governance), UK
- KIMO International, North Sea wide
- Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), BE
Why do we need an International Forum on Offshore and Marine Ecosystems?
While the energy transition is taking speed offshore, the topic is low on the public agenda, knowledge gaps are significant and research atomized. Towards 2050, the energy transition will see the
- decommissioning of >7,500 oil and gas installations across 53 countries
- construction (and decommissioning) of up to 25,000 offshore wind turbines in the North Sea alone
- construction and decommissioning of up to 800 wind turbines each year in the North Sea area.
All this will have a major impact on public spending, marine ecosystems and other users of the sea and key decisions will be taken between 2018 and 2023. If we do things right, we believe we can make the energy transition have a positive impact on marine ecosystems rather than a negative one, but then stakeholders need to work together towards a common vision of the our North Sea future.
To increase societal benefits and allow civil society to play a constructive role, we need to:
- share knowledge and discuss best practises and policy issues among science, NGOs, industry and governments.
- improve capacities among NGOs and developing countries.
- tell the story of what is happening offshore to the wider public.
- find feasible solutions for how to protect and strengthen marine ecosystems under offshore energy development and transition.
Presentations & publicity
Early May, North Sea Futures sent a letter to North Sea Ministers of environment regarding the ongoing review of OSPAR Decision 98/3. The letter to the Danish Minister can be found here.
On June 20th tot 22nd, North Sea Futures director Anne-Mette Jørgensen will be presenting at the North Sea Viscous Space Conference, organized by TU Delft, Leiden University and the Erasmus University.
In 2017 we reached the organisations first five milestones:
- An international expert survey on offshore decommissioning and environmental effects (in the process of publication in “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment”)
- A survey on Green Danish and International NGO’s agenda on offshore-energy
- A Discussion paper distributed for broad stakeholder consultations
- NIRAS-report on “A Circular Economy and Ecosystems approach to offshore wind power installations”
- An international stakeholder dialogue meeting held at The Danish Technical University (DTU), including presentation and discussion of a Manifest, which summarizes the findings and experiences from 2017.
International Science – Green NGO Dialogue Meeting on Management and Decommissioning of Offshore Installations.
On September 26th, we organized our first International Dialogue Meeting at the campus of the Danish Technical University (DTU) with some 40 participants from science, green NGOs, industry and government. The title of the meeting was “Blue Growth and Ecosystem Resilience in the North Sea – Sustainability Challenges and Opportunities.”
The Dialogue Meeting was held at the occasion of the upcoming OSPAR Meeting (2018), where the decommissioning regime for offshore installations of the past 20 years will be evaluated. Its perspective, however, went far beyond this occasion as it addressed the wider challenge of protecting marine ecosystems during the transition and infrastructures development from fossil to renewable energy.
As an outcome from the meeting, we have launched The North Sea Futures Manifest 2017, presenting 10 principles for making the North Sea thrive as an ecosystem during the transition from fossil to renewable energy production.
We invite you to express your support for the Manifest by sharing it with colleagues and government representatives and by letting the 10 North Sea Principles inspire your own work.
Input for the Dialogue Meeting
An NGO based Discussion paper “Offshore Installations and Decommissioning in the North Sea: Do we need a More Flexible Model for Decommissioning of Offshore Installations in the North Sea?” based on interviews with 12 Danish green NGOs and discussions with selected representatives.
To provide participants with the necessary background knowledge on offshore installations, decommissioning and current regulation, we produced a Background Brief.
Keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Katherine Richardson, University of Copenhagen, presented her vision of Blue Growth and Sustainable Development of our oceans: perspectives from Sustainability Science and UN GSDR. She concluded that since the Brundtland Report (1987), our understanding of ‘sustainability’ is changing. From a focus on intergenerational equity and triple bottom-lines (economic, social and environmental) to an understanding of the Earth System as a system of which humanity is an integrated part and where human development must take place within certain biophysical and social limits. To be sustainable, “blue growth” must acknowledge and respect the ocean and its role in the Earth System.
Dr. Robbert Jak, Wageningen Marine Research, held a presentation on life on man-made structures in the North Sea base on the work of his colleague Dr. Joop Coolen. He concluded that
- Offshore Installations are highly biodiverse
- Shallow parts are most unlike natural reefs
- Deep parts are most like natural reefs
- Reefs are connected via water currents
- Removal of offshore installations will reduce local biodiversity
- There is no objection against leaving clean parts of foundations in place as reefs
Dr. Jonas Teilmann, Aarhus University, Department of Bioscience, taught us about how offshore installations affect marine mammals and their behaviour. His conclusions were as follows:
- We know that some, but far from all marine mammals are attracted by some man-made structures
- We do not know if there is a positive or negative population effect if all structures were removed
- We also do not know if disused structures that were left as reefs would benefit marine mammals if fishing is allowed again around the structures.
Anne-Mette Jørgensen, North Sea Futures, presented lessons from a Marine Expert Survey on “Environmental effects of various options for decommissioning offshore installations in the North Sea region” to which 40 scientists from across the world have contributed. The survey asked for the experts’ ranking of various decommissioning options and 23 environmental criteria that should be at the basis of decommissioning decision making for Oil & Gas and offshore wind structures. A panel of scientists and NGOs responded to the presentations, bringing in some interesting and critical perspectives:
- From an Earth System perspective, we should not at all be ranking environmental criteria. Moreover, scientists always rank their own topic as the most important.
- Interconnectivity between installations is very important. Therefore, a case-by-case-approach to decommissioning decisions is insufficient: we need to consider groups of interconnected structures.
- How do we apply the precautionary principle to decommissioning decisions when we actually know more about what happens to the ecosystem if we leave installations in place than we do about what happens it we take them to shore?
- There is a clear need to develop an ecosystem approach to decommissioning of offshore installations.
In the afternoon, three brief presentations were held as an introduction to break-out sessions around the 12 principles for a next best decommissioning practice presented in the discussion paper.
Nynne Marie Bech, NIRAS presented a Circular economy and ecosystem approach to offshore wind farms, developed for North Sea Futures. Download the full NIRAS report behind the presentation here.
Dr. Sam Collin, Scottish Wildlife Trust, presented his organisation’s thinking about a North Sea Environment Fund
Dr. George Wurpel presented learnings from the pilot project ‘Platforms Naturally!’.Unfortunately, at a later stage, the operator of the platforms in the pilot project decided to discontinue the project.