18 November 2022

Reflections on COP27 Egypt: The Long-Term Role of Blue Carbon

Seagrass. Credit: Benjamin L. Jones/Unsplash

At the COP-27 roundtable discussion in Egypt, oceanographers discussed the long-term role of the ocean to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations through mangrove forest vegetation, salt marshes and seagrass beds – known as blue carbon.

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Absorbing almost a quarter of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere each year, the sea is a long-term solution to climate change.

Because the ocean is a long-term solution–and the “keyboard” for climate change mitigation and adaptation–the world needs in-depth research and widespread development related to blue carbon ecosystems.

It is also important to preserve the remaining vegetated coastal ecosystems.

 

Strategic Potential

“It is our job to understand the capabilities of the ocean that will help unravel the climate crisis, and it is also our job to support the development of solutions to protect it,” said Dr Ana Querios of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.

Querios was one of the panelists at the roundtable discussion at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on 16 November 2022.

The panel discussion entitled “Oceans for Climate: Applying sea-based climate action to build coastal adaptation and resilience”, the negotiations aimed at strengthening mitigation, supporting the needs for sustainable resilience and adaptation in the seas and coasts.

During the roundtable discussion, ocean experts helped identify opportunities for increased ocean and coastal-based financing within the broader climate finance scheme. One of them is blue carbon financing.

The climax benefits of blue carbon ecosystems, says Querios, “are uncertain. but the conservation and restoration of these ecosystems is important to provide coastal protection, food security and biodiversity.”

He explained that blue carbon ecosystems have significant potential to be used strategically as a long-term solution to combat CO2 emissions. To achieve that, “we first need the right capacity to define blue carbon.”

 

Indonesian readiness

The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan emphasized Indonesia’s readiness to develop a blue carbon ecosystem. Luhut’s statement was delivered at the Indonesian Pavilion, COP27 in Egypt on November 7.

“Indonesia is very ready to develop a blue carbon ecosystem through comprehensive investment, with effective partnerships from all stakeholders and integrated financial mechanisms,” said Luhut.

Indonesia, together with Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a country with the largest area of tropical forests and wetlands – including peatlands and mangroves – in the world.

“We are committed to preserving sustainable management and restoring this critical ecosystem,” said Minister Luhut.

 

Effective Protection

As one of the panel speakers on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum in the COP27 2022 series, Chief Executive Officer of Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) Mas Achmad Santosa explained the importance of effective governance in protecting blue carbon ecosystems.

Pak Otta, nicknamed Mas Achmad, noted several important things that should be regulated in national law regarding blue carbon ecosystems.

First, recognizing the function of blue carbon ecosystems as critical natural capitals (CNC), followed by the establishment of strong protection instruments and without exclusion clauses.

Second, the clarity of authority between ministries and institutions, so that the functions and duties of each governance of blue carbon ecosystems are becoming clearer and there is no overlap.

Third, ensure that the community can participate optimally in blue carbon ecosystem governance.

Fourth, effective law enforcement with technological support to track violations in the blue carbon ecosystem area.

 

Special attention

Blue carbon is absorbed in coastal and open ocean ecosystems. At the same time, mangrove forests as one of the blue carbon ecosystems function as coastal protection against rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Ocean carbon sequestration is of particular concern, as it is unlike land-based forms of carbon sequestration. Blue carbon ecosystems can bury carbon in sediments for long periods of time, sometimes centuries or even thousands of years.

That is why blue carbon ecosystems, especially those that accumulate sediments, are very relevant in efforts to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

Blue carbon restoration is relevant to the 14th Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “Life Underwater”. Through the 14th SDG, the United Nations invites the world to conserve and use oceans, seas and marine resources in a sustainable manner for sustainable development goals.

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