Established in 2011, the Blue Carbon Initiative (BCI) works to mitigate climate change through the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of “blue” carbon coastal and marine ecosystems—mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses—around the world. Coordinated by Conservation International (CI), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO), the initiative works by engaging local, national, and international governments in order to promote policies that support coastal blue carbon conservation, management and financing, while at the same time develop comprehensive methods for assessing blue carbon stocks and emissions, and implement projects around the world that demonstrate the feasibility of blue carbon as a climate change mitigation strategy.
Despite the acknowledgement of the importance of “blue carbon” ecosystems in mitigating climate change, many countries have yet to prepare for and implement targeted climate and carbon policies for these ecosystems alongside other coastal priorities, challenges and demands. When protected or restored, blue carbon ecosystems sequester and store carbon at significantly higher rates than terrestrial forests, providing a central role in climate change mitigation. Conversely, when degraded or destroyed, these ecosystems emit the carbon they have stored for centuries into the atmosphere and oceans and become sources of greenhouse gases.
Island territories in particular stand to gain from blue carbon financing and protection as they sit on the frontlines of climate change, sea level rise and increased natural disasters. Additionally, many tropical island territories could qualify for blue carbon financing given the small land-to-coastal ecosystem ratio, i.e. many have low-lying ecosystems with extensive mangrove forests, tidal marshes and seagrass beds. Through scientific and policy working groups, the BCI team of experts has developed standard methodologies for measuring and analyzing blue carbon and developed a policy assessment framework to help governments prepare for and implement targeted climate and carbon policies for blue carbon ecosystems.
Through a coalition of experts, the BCI develops and promotes management approaches based on cutting edge science that demonstrates the potential for blue carbon as a climate change mitigation strategy. Their scientific working group has developed the “Coastal Blue Carbon: methods for assessing carbon stocks and emissions factors in mangroves, tidal salt marshes, and seagrass meadows,” which provides managers, scientists and other practitioners in the field with standardized recommendations for carbon measurements and analysis. Their policy working group has developed the National Blue Carbon Policy Assessment Framework, an easy-to-apply five-step assessment framework that provides countries with a straightforward and structured methodology for integrated coastal management, clearly outlining when and whether climate and carbon related policies are appropriate, and how they can be coordinated with existing coastal regulation and policies. The BCI also helps design financial incentives and policy mechanisms for ensuring the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of coastal blue carbon ecosystems.
This information was based on an interview conducted with Jennifer Howard of Conservation International, member of the Blue Carbon Initiative.
For more information, please visit http://thebluecarboninitiative.org