Solution Series: Coastal Blue Carbon Practices
At F4CR, we’re often asked, “What are the solutions that can restore the climate?” In the coming months, we will answer this question (and more!) as they relate to nine categories of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions. In this fourth month of our Solution Series, we examine the potential of coastal blue carbon practices to contribute to climate restoration. Our new coastal blue carbon white paper looks in greater detail at this solution’s climate restoration potential in terms of durability, financeability, scalability, and equity. This blog post gives a brief overview of some key points.
What is coastal blue carbon?
Blue carbon is an umbrella term that refers to carbon captured by marine and coastal ecosystems. Coastal blue carbon refers to carbon specifically captured and released within coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems include mangroves, tidal salt marshes, and seagrass meadows; sensitive ecosystems that release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere when they are disrupted or destroyed.
Can coastal blue carbon practices restore the climate?
As these ecosystems become increasingly threatened by climate change and human activity, it’s essential to preserve existing ecosystems in order to avoid additional carbon emissions. The preservation and restoration of coastal blue carbon ecosystems can prevent carbon release, as well as fostering healthy ecosystems that can continue to do their part to absorb and store massive quantities of atmospheric carbon. Through an emphasis on conservation and restoration, coastal blue carbon practices can reduce the loss and degradation of — and resulting CO2 emissions from — existing ecosystems. Within this Solution Series installment we will examine coastal blue carbon practices through our climate restoration criteria: durability, scalability, financeability, and equity.
Compared to land-based forest carbon practices, coastal blue carbon practices allow carbon to be sequestered within coastal soils for a significantly longer period of time: from centuries to millennia. But like land-based ecosystems, the carbon stored in the plants’ biomass generally lasts only years to decades. Durable carbon storage in these ecosystems is threatened by risks like extreme weather and lack of long-term ecosystem management plans.
While each ecosystem type has a different CO2 removal and storage capacity, as a whole these rates are low compared to other types of CDR solutions. However, the additional social and environmental benefits of coastal blue carbon practices highlight the importance of including them in the portfolio of restorative solutions.
Coastal blue carbon practices are currently unfeasibly expensive to scale up, as the projects involve high upfront costs for implementation and measurement. However, if projects take a multi-functional approach — seeking to address a broad range of goals at once — it can make them easier to fund.
It’s imperative that these practices be implemented following a robust community engagement process that considers all possible stakeholders. Project developers should work with communities to co-design projects that can provide suitable non-climate benefits to these communities, especially those that have been disproportionately affected by climate change. Project funding should come from the largest historic emitters of carbon to support those on the frontlines experiencing climate impacts today.
Interested in learning more about coastal blue carbon practices? Download our Coastal Blue Carbon White Paper and register for our coastal blue carbon expert panel on Tuesday, October 25 at 1:00 pm Pacific.