At the COP21 this week, the government of Australia announced the creation of the International Partnership for Blue Carbon. It will bring together governments, non-profit organizations, intergovernmental agencies, and scientists to increase understanding of, and accelerate action on the important role of coastal blue carbon ecosystems in climate change action.
Founding members of the International Partnership for Blue Carbon are Australia, Indonesia; Costa Rica; the Blue Carbon Initiative (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission - UNESCO, Conservation International, IUCN), GRID-Arendal; the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP); the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Office of the Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner; the Centre for International Forestry Research; and the Global Change Institute.
The announcement comes as negotiators at the COP agreed on a framework for a final deal to address climate change.
"Blue carbon - carbon stored in marine and coastal habitats - could play a significant role in reducing emissions, while also supporting biodiversity conservation, fisheries habitat protection, and disaster risk reduction," said Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment for Australia. "Research has already demonstrated that coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds and salt marshes can be much more effective than forests at sequestering carbon.
While constituting only 2-6 per cent of the total area of tropical forest, the degradation of blue carbon ecosystems - seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves - is equivalent to 19 percent of carbon emissions from global deforestation. These coastal ecosystems also provide critical ecosystem services, such as coastal protection and disaster risk reduction, water filtration, and fisheries habitat. Blue carbon ecosystems therefore provide Nations with simultaneous and significant climate change adaptation and mitigation benefits.
"Nature can provide up to 30 percent of the solution to fight climate change," said Dr. Emily Pigeon, senior director of strategic marine initiatives at Conservation International. "Countries have struggled to understand how much impact coastal carbon ecosystems have on climate change, but leadership from Australia, itself a massive sink of blue carbon, can aid and support slowing the release of blue carbon that is a result of the destruction of these threatened ecosystems."
Indonesia and Australia have the first and second most blue carbon ecosystems in the world, respectively. Indonesia's mangrove forests store up to five times the carbon of its upland forests, yet all blue carbon ecosystems around the world are highly threatened.
"It is encouraging to see more nations recognizing blue carbon and other nature-based solutions as powerful allies in efforts to combat climate change," said Inger Andersen, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN. "Australia's announcement today to establish an International Partnership for Blue Carbon is a meaningful step in building momentum behind this essential piece of the overall climate solution."
The International Partnership for Blue Carbon will work to scale up and amplify efforts to better manage blue carbon resources by establishing a network of governments, non-profit organizations, intergovernmental agencies and scientists to support: the integration of coastal blue carbon ecosystems into national greenhouse gas inventories; development of innovative approaches to protect and enhance coastal blue carbon ecosystems; science and research to support blue carbon measurement and management; capacity building and knowledge transfer across countries; the mobilization of funding to support coastal blue carbon ecosystem management from the private sector and mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund.
"The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO welcomes the new international Blue Carbon Partnership announced by Australia today," said Vladimir Ryabinin Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. "Coastal blue carbon ecosystems are key for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and it is timely to bring that to the international agenda."
About the Blue Carbon Initiative:
The Blue Carbon Initiative is a global program working to mitigate climate change through the restoration and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems. The Initiative currently focuses on mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses. The Blue Carbon Initiative brings together governments, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and communities from around the world. The Initiative is 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). Learn more at thebluecarboninitiative.org.