In Cancun, everyone’s talking about Blue Carbon

The term Blue Carbon seems to be gaining traction outside of the world of science and environmental economics. Or – at the very least – its gaining traction in Cancun.

Numerous groups have strategically launched new reports regarding the capture, conservation, and capitalization of carbon on our coasts. Just in time for the climate menagerie in Mexico: COP16.

World Bank, ICUN, the Nicholas Institute at Duke University, and a new Blue Climate Coalition are laying material on the table — and the web. You can access the new Blue Carbon policy brief from Duke and read about the Blue Climate Coalition here. The World Bank  and IUCN put our their own report on building mitigation and adaptation for carbon-rich coasts. If  you were able to read Dan Laffoly’s  (IUCN) eloquent New York Times Op-Ed last January, this report provides some great follow-up and  substance.

The World Bank, together with IUCN and ESA PWA, announces the release of a brief for decision-makers entitled, “Capturing and Conserving Natural Coastal Carbon – Building mitigation, advancing adaptation.” This information brief highlights the crucial importance of carbon sequestered in coastal wetlands and submerged vegetated habitats like seagrass beds for climate change mitigation.

Coastal wetlands, such as mangroves, tidal flats and salt marshes, along with seagrass beds sequester large amounts of carbon within their plants and especially in the soil. However, degradation of these habitats–as a result of drainage, conversion and reclamation–can result in substantial and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases.

However, these natural carbon sinks and the emissions resulting from their degradation and loss remain largely unaccounted for within the UNFCCC. Restoring degraded wetlands–in particular deltas which are subsiding as a result of natural geomorphology, human disturbance to the hydrological cycle, and sea level rise–can reverse the loss of these sinks and reverse the release of GHGs to the atmosphere. Protecting these natural carbon stores in the first place prevents the rapid loss of carbon that immediately follows disturbance, as well and preserving has substantial co-benefits for adaptation to climate change in terms of reducing the physical vulnerability of shorelines and increasing the social and economic resilience of coastal communities through positive impacts on livelihoods and food security.

Recognizing the role and value of coastal wetlands and seagrass beds under the Climate Convention will contribute to a global approach to natural carbon management.

The brief is based on the findings of a larger report by Crooks et al, which will be presented at a side event at the UNFCCC COP-16 in Cancun on Wednesday, December 1, 11:30—1:00pm, Cancun Messe, Jaguar. This side-event, organized by Conservation International and IUCN, is entitled ‘Blue Carbon: Valuing CO2 Mitigation by Coastal Marine Systems. Sequestration of Carbon Along Our Coasts: Are We Missing Major Sinks and Sources?’.