Blue Carbon Financing of Mangrove Conservation in the Abidijan Convention Region: A Feasibility Study

Coastal vegetated ecosystems have long benefited coastal communities and fisheries, and in recent years have been recognized internationally for their significant capacity to sequester and store carbon (“blue carbon”)—at rates that surpass those of tropical forests. Yet these ecosystems are being converted rapidly. Current annual mangrove deforestation has been estimated to emit 240 million tons of carbon dioxide. For this reason, financing mechanisms to pay those tropical countries that have significant blue carbon resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation have been explored as a means to fund mangrove conservation. This report by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, and GRID-Arendal explores the potential of international carbon finance mechanisms to help fund mangrove conservation along the coast of West, Central, and Southern Africa that is covered by the Abidjan Convention and examines the scale of economic benefits that this conservation might provide for the region, including benefits not always recognized in traditional assessments or valuations. 

Making Sure the Blue Economy is Green

Given the growing and seemingly limitless capacity to industrialize the oceans, there is a need to reimagine how to effectively measure, monitor and sustainably manage this seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface. In a commentary for the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the Nicholas Institute's John Virdin and co-authors write that we are now at an inflection point in history, where we no longer look to the ocean solely for protein and waterways, but also as a source for many more aspects of our increasingly industrialized society. While much of our focus has been terrestrially based where impacts are easier to identify, the authors write, greater attention is needed on the industrialization of our oceans, which have long been considered as a source of inexhaustible resources and reservoirs for unwanted terrestrially generated waste.

Toward a Strategic Action Roadmap on Oceans and Climate: 2016 to 2021

This comprehensive set of policy recommendations on oceans and climate for consideration at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 22nd Conference of the Parties and beyond is aimed at recognizing the central role of oceans in climate and the need to implement stringent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid disastrous consequences for coastal and island communities, marine ecosystems, and ocean chemistry. The recommendations from the International Expert Working Group on Oceans and Climate address mitigation, adaptation, displacement, financing, and capacity development. 

Coastal “Blue” Carbon: A Revised Guide to Supporting Coastal Wetland Programs and Projects Using Climate Finance and Other Financial Mechanisms

Coastal wetlands conservation and restoration efforts aim to preserve biodiversity and generate benefits to local communities. A diverse portfolio of financing sources has been used for these efforts, including philanthropy, multi- and bilateral aid, in-country governmental funding, tourism-related and other usage fees, and fees and levies associated with wetlands-centric extractive industries. More recently, recognition of coastal wetlands as carbon sinks has opened the door for wetland managers to explore funding sources directed toward climate change mitigation. But finding appropriate funding sources to set up a coastal wetland carbon project or to develop a national carbon program (which includes or is solely focused on coastal wetlands) is often a challenge. Additionally, carbon finance alone often cannot support the necessary management activities. This report updates Keep It Fresh or Salty: An Introductory Guide to Financing Wetland Carbon Projects and Programs (2014). It uses revised guidance for program and project developers (governments, NGOs, local communities) and extends analysis to other finance avenues that can link and complement carbon activities with non-carbon-based financing sources such as debt-for-nature swaps. Rather than recommending one mechanism over any other, it encourages users to think holistically about the range of benefits provided by coastal wetlands conservation for climate mitigation and adaptation in order to optimize the full range of financial mechanisms.

Do Protected Areas Reduce Blue Carbon Emissions? A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of Mangroves in Indonesia

Mangroves provide multiple ecosystem services such as blue carbon sequestration, storm protection, and unique habitat for species. Despite these services, mangroves are being lost at rapid rates around the world. Using the best available biophysical and socio-economic data, the authors present the first rigorous large-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of protected areas at conserving mangroves and reducing blue carbon emissions in the journal Ecological Economics. The analysis examines the success of protected areas in Indonesia between 2000 and 2010, finding that their use has avoided the loss of 14,000 hectares of mangrove habitat and approximately 13 million metric tons (carbon dioxide equivelent) of blue carbon emissions.

Ecology: Protect the Deep Sea

Formal governance structures and funds need to be put in place by 2020 to create networks of sea-floor reserves that maintain and restore biodiversity and functioning of deep-sea ecosystems, writes the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Linwood Pendleton and colleagues in a comment piece in the journal Nature.

More than one million square kilometres of the sea below 200 metres in depth are being ploughed by trawlers, and the next decade will see expansion of oil, gas and mineral extraction into deeper waters. At risk are ecosystems that contain thousands of undiscovered organisms, that contribute to the health and productivity of the ocean, that challenge our ideas of the extremes at which life can exist, and that are habitat and nursery for fisheries. Some threatened species have lifespans of hundreds of thousands of years or live in habitats that take millennia to form. The 2015 U.N. General Assembly should develop a new body to protect deep sea biodiversity, or extend the mandate of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) beyond mining to protect the deep-sea from a wider range of regulated commercial industrial activities, the authors suggest. The ISA could then apply the Convention on Biological Diversity targets for protecting and restoring 10% of the oceans, including the deep sea, by 2020. This conservation activity would require around $30 million per annum, which could be raised by taxing extractions from the deep sea, Pendleton and his co-authors propose.

Deep Sea Minerals and the Green Economy

Deep sea minerals are one of several potential non-renewable resource prospects that offer an opportunity for both resource-endowed countries and the global community to apply transformative policies to ensure future resource development. Mining companies are preparing to explore and extract minerals from the Pacific's seabed with the first commercial sea-floor massive sulphide mining venture on track to start in Papua New Guinea in 2014. In chapter eight, "Deep Sea Minerals and the Green Economy," authors explore five policy design principles that could be considered when evaluating potential development.

Sustainable Economic Development and Deep Sea Mining

Ensuring that deep sea mining will have a positive impact on Pacific Island communities requires supporting not only the economic capital upon which sustainable and resilient economies are built, but also the social and environmental capital. In chapter four, "Sustainable Economic Development and Deep Sea Mining," authors explore the potential benefits and costs of deep sea mining to the economic and environmental capital of coastal and small island developing states in the region. The chapter also looks at traditional and emerging ways to determine the economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits of mining. 

Ecological Restoration in the Deep Sea

The deep sea is increasingly recognized as a fertile area for offshore industrialization. If existing activities in the deep sea continue or are expanded and new deep-ocean industries are developed, there is need to consider what is required to minimize repair resulting in damages to the deep-sea environment. This article in the journal Marine Policy develops the discourse on deep-sea restoration and offers guidance on planning and implementing ecological restoration projects for deep-sea ecosystems that are already, or are at threat of becoming degraded, damaged or destroyed. Two deep-sea restoration case studies in Scotland and Papua New Guinea are described and are contrasted with on-going salt marsh restoration in the San Francisco Bay.

Incorporating Blue Carbon as a Mitigation Action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Technical Issues to Address

Coastal and marine ecosystems store large amounts of carbon in soil sediments and vegetation. When these systems are disturbed through conversion or degradation, this emits carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas whose growing atmospheric concentration is altering the climate system. Attention to this source of “blue carbon” emissions has only, fairly recently, been motivated by new scientific studies quantifying its magnitude. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as part of its mission to reduce threats to our global climate system, promotes the sustainable management, conservation, and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of all greenhouse gases, including those in coastal marine ecosystems. Yet there are no specific mechanisms within the UNFCCC that focus on blue carbon. This paper reviews where coastal marine ecosystems and blue carbon may be addressed within existing UNFCCC mechanisms, such as those dealing with land use and reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), at the project and national levels.