Blue Carbon Financing of Mangrove Conservation in the Abidjan Convention Region: A Feasibility Study
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals framework and the Paris Climate Agreement, blue carbon habitats in the Abidjan Convention regionwill be a significant factor with respect to carbon sequestration, maintenance of ecosystem health and enabling sustainable livelihoods. Blue carbon ecosystems and their related services are already being included in national reporting mechanisms related to both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals. This constitutes a clear indication at the global level of the emphasis being placed on the role of healthy marine ecosystems in both mitigating and adapting to climate change, and in contributing to sustainable development. Together UN Environment, the Abidjan Convention and other key partners and stakeholders must transform national, regional and global policy efforts into tangible actions on the ground. The challenges are complex and yet the opportunities are clear. This report builds on the long standing role of both the Abidjan Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme, along with its community of international partners, to support countries in raising awareness and devising policies and concrete actions that acknowledge and integrate the importance of ‘blue carbon’ habitats like mangroves. The report also highlights persistent knowledge gaps that hinder the ability of decision makers to define proper actions that could support achievement of Sustainable Development Goals while maintaining the health and integrity of these precious habitats for generations to come. It is worth noting that this report is very timely for the region as the Abidjan Convention is at the final stage of the development of an additional protocol on the sustainable management of mangroves in its geographic scope. This is a unique experience which needs to be brought to the attention of other region in the world where mangroves ecosystems is an asset for carbon sequestration. Catalyzing the financial, socio-cultural and natural value of ‘blue carbon’ systems such as the mangrove forests of west, central and southern Africa, is an impressive opportunity for a region so well-endowed with such habitats. Innovating towards a socially and ecologically sustainable world will depend on society’s ability to broaden the definitions of value and incorporate already available ‘natural infrastructure’. The countries and communities of West, Central and Southern Africa can lead the world with such innovation, a leadership that will be critical to the success of a vital global transition towards the ‘Future We Want’.
‘Blue Carbon’, both as a concept and approach, has evolved greatly over thepast seven years, since first reports highlighting Blue Carbon were released in 2009. As a result, the global community has become increasingly aware of the importance to natural health and social prosperity of certain coastal vegetated ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and salt marshes. These natural ecosystems provide a variety of clear benefits to local communities and societies at large, including (amongst many others) food from fisheries, medicines, construction material and protection from storm surges and coastal erosion. Through the research associated with blue carbon, these habitats have been recognized as a significant natural store of carbon, a critical function with respect to climate change mitigation. This has led to an increase in innovative efforts to conserve these habitats and to ensure the integrity of the carbon they store by avoiding conversion or destruction by incentivizing communities and countries through financial mechanisms like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions fromDeforestation and Forest Degradation). In the west, central and southern region of coastal Africa, the large, intact mangrove areas have attracted particular attention. From the southern border of Mauritania down to the northern border of Angola, extensive mangrove forests have been providing valuable physical and cultural benefits for generations. These benefits have been difficult to incorporate into conventional decision-making processes, leading to policies that have resulted habitat loss and increased vulnerability of both the human and natural systems. The more easily quantified economic benefits of converting mangroves to utilitarian applications such as deforestation for agriculture, firewood provision or building of coastal infrastructure, have in the past overshadowed the less obvious yet as or more valuable qualitative benefits that are inherent in these natural systems. Countries of the west, central and southern African coastal region have recently prioritized mangrove conservation through decisions of the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the west, central and southern Africa Region (the Abidjan Convention). The Abidjan Convention has become the key regional mechanism to enable the coherent, transboundary coordination of efforts aimed at protecting and sustainably developing mangrove rich areas. From this regional framework, efforts to support national to community level understanding and action to help recognize, demonstrate and capture the critical social, economic and environmental benefits of healthy mangrove forests.
Erik Solheim UNEP Executive Director
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