The potential for Blue Carbon ecosystems to combat climate change and provide co-benefits was discussed in the recent and influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. In terms of Blue Carbon, the report mainly focused on coastal wetlands and did not address the socio-economic considerations of using natural ocean systems to reduce the risks of climate disruption. In this paper, we discuss Blue Carbon resources in coastal, open-ocean and deep-sea ecosystems and highlight the benefits of measures such as restoration and creation as well as conservation and protection in helping to unleash their potential for mitigating climate change risks. We also highlight the challenges—such as valuation and governance—to marshalling their mitigation role and discuss the need for policy action for natural capital market development, and for global coordination. Efforts to identify and resolve these challenges could both maintain and harness the potential for these natural ocean systems to store carbon and help fight climate change. Conserving, protecting, and restoring Blue Carbon ecosystems should become an integral part of mitigation and carbon stock conservation plans at the local, national and global levels.
The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate provides policy makers and stakeholders with a holistic perspective on the current state of the ocean in the face of climate change. It identifies knowledge gaps and uncertainties which limit the design and implementation of mitigation strategies in the UNFCCC policy framework. It introduces Blue Carbon-driven ecological and economic climate change mitigation measures and identifies two management approaches. It briefly discusses ocean processes such as the biological and microbial pumps that transform and transport carbon, and reviews approaches to ocean management for climate. It highlights release of carbon by disturbance to coastal vegetated habitats, the need for habitat protection, and refers to the mitigation potential of habitat protection. It also discusses restoration, creation and maximizing carbon uptake and storage of coastal ecosystems and highlights complexities in defining effectiveness of these mitigation actions. This paper expands the discussion of the role of Blue Carbon in climate change mitigation strategies by focusing on the importance of conserving existing marine pathways of carbon fixation, transport, burial and sequestration, and highlighting the challenges associated with the measurement, valuation, management, and governance of carbon in coastal, open ocean, and deep-sea ecosystems.
Some key messages of the paper:
… “conservation efforts can only succeed if local communities are part of the decision-making process, where they stand to directly benefit from the meaningful employment and steady income that would help ensure ownership of these efforts.
…hope that the protection and restoration of marine carbon stocks and sequestration processes will be part of the COP26 - UN Climate Change Conference discussions since this will also help address the marine biodiversity crisis and reduce risks of impacts to critical ocean system functions…
…The post-pandemic period presents an opportunity to reboot our paths to economic development by taking into account the potential and the value of ocean system services, starting with integrated policies tied to economic, social and environmental recovery strategies. Global partnerships leading to immediate actions are needed to pair social protection with climate action and economic recovery, in order to rebuild and transform economies from an ecological standpoint”…
- Hilmi, N., Chami, R., Sutherland, M., Lebleu, L., Benitez, M. B., & Levin, L. A. (2021). The Role of Blue Carbon in Climate Change Mitigation and Carbon Conservation. Ocean Visions Summit 2021.