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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.

Authors: D. Herr, T. Agardy, D. Benzaken, F. Hicks, J. Howard, E. Landis, A. Soles, and T. Vegh, with prior contributions from E. Pidgeon, M. Silvius, and E. Trines

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Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Marine Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Reports

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. 

Authors: Daniela A. Miteva, Brian C. Murray, and Subhrendu K. Pattanayak

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Climate and Energy

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Journal Articles

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.

Author(s): Brian C. Murray and Tibor Vegh

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Blue Carbon

Reports

Coastal Blue Carbon and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Current Status and Future Directions

Blue carbon has been defined as “the carbon stored, sequestered or released from coastal ecosystems of tidal marshes, mangroves and seagrass meadows.” These marine and coastal ecosystems store large amounts of carbon in the plants and the sediment below them. When these ecosystems are degraded or destroyed, significant amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change risk. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has considered conserving and restoring forests an important aspect of climate change mitigation through its REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism. Broadening these approaches to include other natural systems, such as blue carbon ecosystems, could help reduce emissions from the degradation and destruction of these areas as well. This policy brief examines the evolution of blue carbon in the UNFCCC process—how it entered, where it stands, and what path lies ahead.

Author(s): Brian C. Murray, Colette E. Watt, David M. Cooley, and Linwood H. Pendleton

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Marine Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Policy Briefs

Estimating Global "Blue Carbon" Emissions from Conversion and Degradation of Vegetated Coastal Ecosystems

Recent attention has focused on the high rates of annual carbon sequestration in vegetated coastal ecosystems—marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses—that may be lost with habitat destruction. Relatively unappreciated, however, is that conversion of these coastal ecosystems also impacts very large pools of previously-sequestered carbon. Residing mostly in sediments, this ‘blue carbon’ can be released to the atmosphere when these ecosystems are converted or degraded. Here we provide the first global estimates of this impact and evaluate its economic implications. Combining the best available data on global area, land-use conversion rates, and near-surface carbon stocks in each of the three ecosystems, using an uncertainty-propagation approach, we estimate that 0.15–1.02 billion tons of carbon dioxide are being released annually, several times higher than previous estimates that account only for lost sequestration.

Author(s): Linwood Pendleton, Daniel C. Donato, Brian C. Murray, Stephen Crooks, W. Aaron Jenkins, Samantha Sifleet, Christopher Craft, James W. Fourqurean, J. Boone Kauffman, Núria Marbà, Patrick Megonigal, Emily Pidgeon, Dorothee Herr, David Gordon, Alexis Baldera

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Climate and Energy

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

State Policy

Journal Articles

Considering "Coastal Carbon" in Existing U.S. Federal Statutes and Policies

Many federal statutes and policies specifically require that impacts on ecosystem services be considered in policy implementation. Some federal policies directly include the economic value of certain ecosystem services in estimates of economic impact. Yet, we are unaware of a single federal statute, regulation, or policy that accounts directly for the carbon held in coastal habitats. Explicitly accounting for coastal carbon could change the outcome of federal policy actions for variety of federal statutes and policies, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and others. These statutes and policies allow for agency discretion in deciding which ecosystem services to include when considering alternative policies, plans, actions, and even assessments of the economic costs of damages to coastal ecosystems. Coastal carbon is an ecosystem service that could be included.

Author(s): Linwood Pendleton, David Gordon, Brian Murray, Britta Victor, Roger Griffis, Ariana Sutton-Grier, and Jen Lechuga

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Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Blue Carbon

Reports

Financing Options for Blue Carbon: Opportunities and Lessons from the REDD+ Experience

When development pressures transform mangroves, seagrass, and coastal wetlands, carbon stored in their biomass and soil is released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. One way to counter these pressures and thereby conserve the carbon stored in these habitats (referred to as “blue carbon”) is to provide payments for the environmental services they provide. This paper analyzes current and potential options for carbon mitigation payments as a source of blue carbon finance. With other work that has focused on the payments needed to secure blue carbon, this paper can help stakeholders assess funding gaps and direct scarce resources to those activities that will provide the greatest blue carbon benefits.

Author(s): David Gordon, Brian C. Murray, Linwood Pendleton, and Britta Victor

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Reports

State of the Science on Coastal Blue Carbon: A Summary for Policy Makers

The natural science of blue carbon is evolving rapidly, and many policy makers remain uncertain about the biophysical potential of these habitats as engines of carbon storage. To better manage the ecosystem services provided by coastal blue carbon, we need a good scientific understanding of how coastal habitats sequester and store carbon, where on the planet carbon is stored in these habitats, how rapidly the habitats are being modified with a risk of carbon release into the atmosphere or water column, and the mechanisms and rate of carbon emissions that follow habitat conversion. This report examines the current science as it relates to these topics. In doing so, it aims to give policy makers a feel for what is known and unknown about coastal blue carbon.

Author(s): Samantha Sifleet, Linwood Pendleton, and Brian C. Murray

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Reports

Green Payments for Blue Carbon: Economic Incentives for Protecting Threatened Coastal Habitats

This report examines the critical question of whether monetary payments for blue carbon—carbon captured and stored by coastal marine and wetland ecosystems—can alter economic incentives to favor protection of coastal habitats such as mangroves, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes. This idea is analogous to payments for REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation), an instrument of global climate policy that aims to curtail forest clearing, especially in the tropics. Like payments for REDD+, incentives to retain rather than emit blue carbon would preserve biodiversity as well as a variety of other ecosystem services at local and regional scales.

Author(s): Brian C. Murray, Linwood Pendleton, W. Aaron Jenkins, and Samantha Sifleet

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Reports

Payments for Blue Carbon: Potential for Protecting Threatened Coastal Habitats

Coastal habitats worldwide are under increasing threat of destruction through human activities such as farming, aquaculture, timber extraction, or real estate development. This loss of habitat carries with it the loss of critical functions that coastal ecosystems provide: support of marine species, retention of shorelines, water quality, and scenic beauty, to name a few. These losses are large from an ecological standpoint but they are economically significant as well. Because the value of these ecosystem services is not easily captured in markets, those who control these lands often do not consider these values when choosing whether to clear the habitat to produce goods that can be sold in the marketplace. This is a form of market failure that leads to excessive habitat destruction. As a result, scientists, policymakers, and other concerned parties are seeking ways to change economic incentives to correct the problem. This is a revised version of a previously published policy brief.

Author(s): Brian C. Murray, W. Aaron Jenkins, Samantha Sifleet, Linwood Pendleton, and Alexis Baldera

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Blue Carbon

Environmental Markets

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Blue Carbon

Policy Briefs