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Blue Carbon - Mind the Gap Version 2.2

  • Gallifrey Foundation


This paper summarises the key challenges to the development and replication of blue carbon projects and proposes specific comprehensive action. Many of the issues covered can apply equally to terrestrial carbon offset programmes and should be considered in that context. Blue Carbon, i.e. the amount of carbon stored and sequestered in coastal habitats like mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrass, is one of the most effective stores of carbon, up to five times more than terrestrial forests per hectare. There is great potential in preserving these coastal habitats and greater danger if we do not. Mangroves offer protection against more frequent and stronger tropical storms. They support rich biodiversity in addition to being one of the most effective stores of carbon on this planet. Over a third of mangroves have been destroyed since 1980 to make charcoal, build houses, create aquaculture ponds and tourist infrastructure. This has released tens of millions of tonnes of carbon. There is an urgent need to preserve the existing carbon stocks that would be released if the mangroves and other coastal habitats were destroyed. How can we accomplish this?
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... Projected financial returns (ROI) from ANR with autochthonous soil carbon inclusion (potential accreditation methodology BAS) were moreover negative and similar to those under NR at higher discount rates, highlighting that neither option may be appropriate under a small-scale blue carbon project financingonly lens at current credit prices. However, where site conditions (i.e., elevation, exposure) are less optimal, our findings reveal the relative merit of ANR over slower and more variable NR to strengthen coastal protection greenbelts more quickly in the face of accelerating global climate change, which may attract additional prospective investors to inflate realized project credit payments (Plan Vivo, 2013;Beeston et al., 2020;The Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility, 2021) toward those that also substantially maximize ROI over NR alone (Turner et al., 2021). We therefore urge prospective managers to consider these context-dependencies in local conditions constraining rapid NR, as well as to identify co-benefit credit pricing opportunities to ensure positive and greater relative ROI from blue carbon project. ...
... Instead, blue carbon project developers could seek to increase potential project viability in terms of credit sales by prioritizing reduced uncertainty (ANR rehabilitation strategies) over slow and variable NR alone. Here, a combination of perceived risk reduction (i.e., lower discounting) alongside faster rates of mangrove greenbelt regeneration may attract substantial interest from other relevant industry investors to drive up credit pricing and realized ROI (see Beeston et al., 2020;Sumaila et al., 2021). This reduction of credit-buyers' perceived risk with ANR rehabilitation efforts may also be combined with less costly conservation actions (i.e., avoided deforestation/degradation) to maximize both pricing and carbon sequestration in larger-scale blue carbon project planning (see Mikoko Pamoja, 2020;Conservation International, 2021; The Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility, 2021). ...
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Opportunities to boost climate change mitigation and adaptation (CCMA) and sustainable conservation financing may lie in enhancing blue carbon sequestration, particularly in developing nations where coastal ecosystems are extensive and international carbon markets offer comparatively attractive payments for environmental stewardship. While blue carbon is receiving increased global attention, few credit-generating projects are operational, due to low credit-buyer incentives with uncertainty in creditable emissions reductions and high project costs. Little empirical guidance exists for practitioners to quantify return-on-investment (ROI) and viability of potential projects, particularly for rehabilitation where multiple implementation options exist with diverse associated costs. We map and model drivers of mangrove natural regeneration (NR) using remote sensing (high-resolution satellite imagery segmentation and time-series modeling), and subsequent carbon sequestration using field- and literature-derived data, across abandoned aquaculture ponds in the Philippines. Using project-specific cost data, we then assess ROI for a hypothetical rehabilitation-focused mangrove blue carbon project at a 9.68 ha abandoned pond over a 10-year timeframe, under varied rehabilitation scenarios [NR vs. assisted natural regeneration (ANR) with planting], potential emissions reduction accreditation methodologies, carbon prices and discount rates. NR was faster in lower-lying ponds with lower tidal exposure (greater pond dike retention). Forecasted carbon sequestration was 3.7- to 5.2-fold and areal “greenbelt” regeneration 2.5- to 3.4-fold greater in our case study under ANR than NR. Variability in modeled sequestration rates drove high uncertainty and credit deductions in NR strategies. ROI with biomass-only accreditation was low and negative under NR and ANR, respectively. ROI was greater under ANR with inclusion of biomass and autochthonous soil carbon; however, neither strategy was highly profitable at current voluntary market carbon prices. ANR was the only scenario that fulfilled coastal protection greenbelt potential, with full mangrove cover within 10 years. Our findings highlight the benefits of ANR and soils inclusion in rehabilitation-oriented blue carbon projects, to maximize carbon sequestration and greenbelt enhancement (thus enhance pricing with potential bundled credits), and minimize forecasting uncertainty and credit-buyers’ perceived risk. An ANR rehabilitation strategy in low-lying, sea-facing abandoned ponds with low biophysical intervention costs may represent large blue carbon CCMA opportunities in regions with high aquaculture abandonment.
... This is the founding principle of a sustainable Blue Economy 4 . In the current world, the only way to design such policy actions is to understand the economic powers behind the scenes: 47% of factors constraining policy makers have recently been shown to be financial in nature (Beeston et al., 2020). ...
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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 marshaling 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.
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