Marine ecosystems – particularly coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes – have demonstrated capacity for carbon sequestration in both the biomass of the dominant plants and the sediment immediately below them. Destruction and degradation of these coastal ecosystems converts long-term natural sinks for greenhouse gases (GHGs) into major GHG sources. The magnitude of these emissions is only now becoming apparent and these GHG sources are not recognized by national GHG emissions accounting or existing climate regulation policies. There is a need to clarify the importance of coastal mangrove, wetland and seagrass conservation and restoration as a climate change mitigation strategy.
Conservation International, IUCN, IOC-UNESCO and partners are building a program to coordinate and guide establishment of coastal “blue” carbon as a conservation and management tool contributing to climate change mitigation and the development of associated conservation financing mechanisms. The objectives of this program are to:
• Assess the feasibility of coastal “blue” carbon as a conservation and management tool and its potential for climate change mitigation.
• Provide implementable recommendations for coastal marine conservation and management that maximize sequestration of carbon and avoided emissions in coastal systems.
• Produce a summary of the critical information needs and data gaps required improve conservation of coastal carbon pools and connect coastal wetlands and seagrass beds to carbon incentive mechanisms (including financing).
• Design and implement a program of work for developing economic incentives, policies or other payment mechanisms through accounting of carbon sequestered or emissions avoided in coastal system. This will include development of key tools such
as baseline development, carbon accounting methodologies, monitoring, and site identification and policy development with early implementing countries and coastal regions.
• Establish a network of demonstration projects that will (1) support development and testing of coastal carbon management and conservation approaches and (2) test and demonstrate coastal wetlands and seagrass beds eligibility for incorporation within GHG mitigation, accounting and financing approaches. This will include networking
and supporting projects from partners globally and implementing field projects in under-represented coastal geographies and/or ecosystems.
• Develop essential communication and capacity-building tools for facilitating the implementation of coastal carbon management.
• Promote and support scientific research needed to further refine the value of coastal carbon sequestration and storage and facilitate carbon accounting in these systems, including facilitating the integration of coastal carbon into the mitigation component of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report.