From providing a diversity of marine habitats to being an important source of food, the world’s oceans provide critical ecosystem services, including being one of the largest sinks for carbon dioxide emissions. As succinctly stated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Ocean Service, “blue carbon is the term for carbon captured by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems.” In fact, on a per hectare basis, some mangrove forest ecosystems store more carbon than lowland, tropical rainforests.
With this in mind, there is increasing interest amongst governments, donors, investors, and the general public in blue carbon. For instance, the International Partnership for Blue Carbon was launched in 2015 by Australia at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21). The Blue Carbon Initiative has also been formed and the UNFCCC COP25, held in Madrid, Spain, was coined the “Blue COP.” Blue carbon will play an important role for both climate adaptation and climate mitigation strategies.
On a project level, these initiatives could focus on conservation activities and/or restoration activities. For example, a blue carbon project may involve a mangrove conservation project or alternatively, the project could include the restoration of seagrass, salt marshes, or kelp beds. In the future, there might be opportunities for coral reef conservation and/or restoration activities to be included. In the meantime, there are already a few voluntary carbon projects, including mangrove projects validated and verified to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), and a few mangrove projects certified under the Plan Vivo standard. In addition, the VCS has a publicly available methodology for tidal wetland and seagrass restoration.
Some of the groups currently working on these projects include: