Coastal ecosystems, which include mangroves, seagrass beds and coastal marshes, are among the most productive on the planet. Indeed, they can absorb up to ten times more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. This carbon stored in both their biomass and soils has a name: “blue carbon”.
However, over the last 50 years, these ecosystems have lost almost half of their historical surface area and continue to disappear at an annual rate of between 1 and 2%. “In view of their sequestration capacity, as well as their richness in terms of biodiversity and resilience for coastal communities, their protection and restoration are now crucial,” says Romain Chabrol, Biodiversity and Oceans expert at Agence Française de Développement (AFD). “But there are still far too few dedicated projects.”
Private sector interest in blue carbon credits
Governments and civil society have shown much greater interest in blue carbon since 2019 and the “blue” COP25. An increasing number of countries are integrating blue carbon in their Nationally Determined Contributions. In 2021, the Glasgow Climate Pact called on the various work programs and constituted bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to integrate and scale up ocean-based action in their mandates and roadmaps.
See also: Protecting our Oceans
Furthermore, about 15 mangrove restoration and conservation pilot projects, including in Colombia, Fiji, Kenya, Mexico and Senegal, have generated, or will generate “blue carbon” emission credits on the voluntary credit market. These carbon credits generated by projects allow private companies to offset their emissions as part of their strategies towards carbon neutrality.
“It can be interesting to use these credits as well as carbon finance,” says Romain Chabrol, “because they help diversify the sources of financing for conservation projects and ensure their sustainability. This is becasuse carbon credits are issued over a long period of time and therefore generate returns throughout this period. The climate value of ecosystems is then used to accelerate their restoration. But this value and this sequestration objective are not enough in themsellves. We need to ensure that the highest standards for the equitable sharing of benefits and biodiversity are respected.”
AFD is currently financing and supporting ten coastal ecosystem conservation and restoration projects. They are climate projects with high social and biodiversity value and biodiversity projects with high climate and social value: Nature-based Solutions.
For example, AFD is supporting a capacity-building project for the Government of Senegal for the management of marine protected areas in the mangrove areas of Casamance and Sine Saloum, which is based on the experience of local communities. In Indonesia, AFD Group is supporting the implementation of the Government’s Blue Carbon Strategy. In Mozambique, joint projects between BIOFUND and WWF, are working to restore and sustainably manage mangroves in the Zambezi Delta.
A coalition for commitment at the highest level
AFD is also demonstrating its commitment to blue carbon projects by leading a new coalition in association with the NGO Conservation International: the Global Coalition for Blue Carbon (GCBC), was officially inaugurated by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, on 11 February 2022 at the One Ocean Summit in Brest.
This coalition functions as a platform through which governments, NGOs and public and private institutions at the highest level can state their commitment to ongoing initiatives. It aims to build global impetus around blue carbon, launch more projects and ensure that the highest social and environmental standards are implemented. Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica and France are already members. The first commitments of its members are due to be announced at the COP27Summit in November.