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

1. Introduction: The global importance of mangroves and the opportunity for the Abidjan Convention region

al., 2011; Murray, 2012; Alongi, 2014). Though mangroves and other marine vegetated habitats occupy only some 0.2 per cent of the global ocean surface, they contribute half of oceanic carbon burial (Duarte, Losada et al., 2013). Given the large storage capacities shown above, globally significant levels of carbon emissions result from mangrove deforestation due to coastal population growth and urbanization (Nellemann and Corcoran, 2009; Pendleton, Donato et al., 2012). From the estimated 49 million ha of mangroves and other coastal vegetated habitats worldwide, over 1,850 Mg CO2 per hectare are susceptible to release (Pendleton, Donato et al., 2012). The carbon currently stored in these habitats (mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses) is collectively termed ‘blue carbon’. Table 1 summarizes estimates of current blue carbon stocks susceptible to release as a result of habitat conversion. Currently an estimated 1.9 per cent of mangroves are lost each year globally, resulting in 240 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions – equivalent to emissions from the use of 588 million barrels of oil or from 50.5 million passenger vehicles for example (Herr et al., 2015 based on Pendleton et al., 2012). Given the benefit of blue carbon storage and sequestration that mangroves and other coastal vegetated habitats provide to the international community, numerous governments, communities, companies and civil society around the world are increasingly supporting their conservation as a climate change mitigation strategy (Herr et al., 2015). These efforts were crystallized in late 2015, with the adoption by the

Coastal vegetated ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and salt marshes, which have long benefited neighbouring communities and fisheries, have in recent years been recognized for their significant carbon- storage capacities and hence their contribution to mitigating climate change (Nellemann et al., 2009; Barbier, 2011). Nevertheless, these ecosystems are being converted rapidly, with current trends projected to lead to 30 to 40 per cent loss of tidal marshes and seagrasses over the next 100 years, and a loss of nearly all unprotected mangroves (Pendleton et al., 2012). Efforts to conserve coastal vegetated habitats and reduce carbon emissions from their conversion, i.e. ‘blue carbon’, have increased over the last five or six years. This has most notably concerned mangrove forests, as the international community has developed mechanisms to pay tropical countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. These sources of international finance could potentially help tropical countries where most of the world’s mangroves are found to leverage global capital to fund the economic and financial costs of mangrove conservation, while capturing local benefits such as flood protection and fisheries support. The global importance of mangrove forests In the last decade, a number of assessments have shown the capacity of intact mangrove forests and other coastal vegetated habitats to store carbon at rates that surpass those of tropical forests (see Figure 1), with high burial rates on the order of 108 Tg C per year (Duarte, Middleburg et al., 2005; Nellemann and Corcoran, 2009; Sifleet, Pendleton et

Figure 1: Global averages for carbon pools (soil organic carbon and living biomass) of selected coastal vegetated habitats Source: (Pendleton, Murray et al., 2014) Note: Only the top metre of soil is included in the soil carbon estimates. Tropical forests are included for comparison.


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