Approximately 100 volunteers gathered on a busy beach in Yokohama, Japan, dedicating their time to an environmental project. Their task involved planting eelgrass in the shallow waters along the coastline of this port city, which lies just south of Tokyo. Originally aimed at revitalizing the coastal ecosystem, this initiative has become crucial in Japan’s broader environmental goals. As the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Japan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050. The project’s significance is highlighted by Japan’s unique geography; despite its smaller land area compared to California, Japan boasts extensive coastlines, making marine vegetation a potent tool for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This groundbreaking project has garnered national attention for its contribution to combating climate change through “blue carbon,” stored by oceanic and coastal ecosystems. Keita Furukawa, a marine scientist at the Association for Shore Environment Creation, emphasized the capacity of marine plants like eelgrass to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Japan has innovatively incorporated carbon sequestration data from seagrass and seaweed into its annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a global first. Although marine vegetation currently only offsets 0.03% of Japan’s annual emissions, its role is set to grow significantly. This is especially important as Japan’s aging forests are becoming less efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide. With momentum behind this marine strategy, experts anticipate that expanding eelgrass cultivation could substantially reduce human-generated carbon emissions, marking a significant leap forward in environmental conservation and climate action.