Blue Carbon

In the discussions on climate change, marine ecosystems have not received sufficient attention considering their importance for both mitigation and adaptation. A major con­ tributing factor has been the complexity of marine ecosystems, their status as an interna­ tional and common property resource, and the absence of robust mitigation metrics. POLICY OPTIONS

While numerous technical issues await full scientific and politi- cal consensus, international climate change instruments need to remain open to the development of agreed mechanisms and measures which support marine ecosystem coherence and re- silience and build on the strong synergies between mitigation and adaptation. Marine ecosystems have, until very recently, been vastly over- looked in climate change mitigation and adaptation debates. To- day’s economies are mainly based on burning of fossil fuels. For many countries, there will be major challenges in developing industry and expanding transport while reducing emissions. It is absolutely critical that while emission reductions of brown and black carbon are made, we must also maintain, and expand, the ability of the biosphere, and in particular the oceans, to con- tinue to capture and bind the carbon that we emit. There is an urgent need for new ways to reduce the impact of continuing emissions, not just by adapting, but also by ensuring that as much carbon as possible is taken up by the natural system – and stored. Oceans have acted as one of the largest natural carbon sinks throughout history and their ability to continue this role should be enhanced. A word of caution is, however, warranted: there is no ‘golden key’ to solve all problems. New innovate short-term solutions, including geo-engineering options such as fertilizing the oceans or pumping CO 2 into the deep seas raise serious ecological, economic, political and ethical challenges,

with many unknown variables and high risk of potential side ef- fects (see Factbox 5). These proposals should not be dismissed, but before being operationalized on a large or commercial scale, more research and careful, thorough evaluation is required. Options that can both reduce and mitigate climate change, in- crease food security, benefit health and subsequent productiv- ity and generate jobs and business are therefore of major im- portance. This is contrary to the perception that mitigation or emission reduction is seen as a cost and not an investment. Im- proved integrated management of the coastal and marine envi- ronments, including protection and restoration of our ocean’s blue carbon sinks, provides one of the strongest win-win miti- gation efforts known today. It may provide value-added benefits well in excess of its cost, but has not yet been recognized in the global protocols and carbon trading systems. Blue carbon sinks cover only a fraction of the world’s oceans – and yet are critical and among the most effective carbon sinks known today. They provide valuable ecosystem services for fisheries, tourism and coastal economies. But they are dis- appearing at a rate higher than any other ecosystem on earth. Less than two decades remain to secure them and restore them, with immediate carbon-binding effect and immediate returns in terms of fisheries and added benefits from improved shore- line protection and ecosystem services.


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