Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advancing coastal carbon

UNEP-WCMC recently released “The climate relevance of ecosystems beyond forests and peatlands - A review of current knowledge and recommendations for action” (Epple, C. 2012), which includes consideration of coastal carbon ecosystems.

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Author Cordula Epple explores coastal carbon in mangrove, tidal saltmarsh and seagrass meadow ecosystems. The report includes several recommendations to policy-makers, science and project funding:

Policy recommendations:
  • Enabling legal and policy frameworks for ecosystem-based mitigation need to be adopted in-country (e.g. regulations for land use  planning) – the Rio Conventions (UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD) can help promote this process.
  • National implementation of UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD should take place in a more integrated manner in order to promote multiple benefits and increase synergies and efficient use of resources. In addition, application of ecosystem-based approaches contributing to both climate change mitigation and adaptation should be enhanced. 
  • Mechanisms to fund ecosystem-based mitigation measures should be identified, developed and implemented. 
  • Guidance on how to address ecosystem-based mitigation as possible part of NAMAs should be developed. Assistance should be provided to countries that wish to develop such measures. 
  • Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes should be applied to provide incentives to institutions, land managers etc. for sustainable land management. 
  • In order to facilitate enhanced generation and use of voluntary carbon offsets, the development of accounting standards for mitigation  activities and/or ecosystem types which are not covered by already existing standards should be supported, building on the existing standards.
Science recommendations:
  • Improve global mapping of current and potential carbon stocks and fluxes. Enhance knowledge on greenhouse gas sequestration and emission rates for available management options across all types of ecosystems.
  • Make available knowledge more easily accessible, also for decision-makers, donors, project developers and conservation practitioners. 
  • Carry out further research on soil carbon stocks, sequestration potentials and stabilisation capacities. Soil carbon stocks in general, their spatial heterogeneity and their dynamics including the temporal aspect need much greater attention. Internationally standardised methods need to be developed for measuring soil carbon across all types of ecosystems. 
  • Enhance the process-level understanding of dynamics related to all major greenhouse gases and carry out Integrated Net Radiative Forcing analysis (not just GHGs) for important processes and land use options. 
  • For temperate grasslands and savannahs, carry out research into the consequences of fire management and afforestation for mitigation, land use and biodiversity. 
  • Pay attention to the particular knowledge gaps for coastal ecosystems with regard to monitoring of trends, mapping of current and potential carbon stocks and fluxes, identification of drivers leading to loss and degradation of carbon stocks, and development of standardized methods for estimation of carbon stocks, sequestration and emissions. 
  • Develop feasible accounting tools for all types of ecosystems, carbon pools and greenhouse gases, including regionally appropriate default values, indicator-based approaches and computer-based modelling. 
  • Carry out further research on the likely impacts of climate change and associated phenomena, such as sea level rise and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations, on ecosystem carbon stocks, paying attention to the issue of critical thresholds. 
  • Improve the representation of non-forest ecosystems in process-oriented models on carbon stock changes and their interaction with climate change. 
  • Carry out further research into impacts of man-made changes of hydrology on carbon  stocks and interactions with climate change. 
  • Develop and calibrate models to make sensitivity analyses of how ecosystem feedbacks to climate are affected by interactions with ecosystem-based mitigation measures
  • Carry out further research into the fate of carbon transported by erosion processes. 
  • Intensify research on management options that link climate change mitigation with multiple benefits, including for adaptation. 
  • Enhance knowledge on the relationship between soil carbon stocks and agronomic/biomass productivity of different land use and management systems. 
  • Assess direct and indirect impacts of policies related to production and use of biofuels, including impacts on soil carbon stocks.  
  • Develop tools for decision-makers to assist with the prioritisation of options for action,  including through assessment of project feasibility and potential for multiple benefits, opportunity cost mapping and scenario mapping. 
  • Improve models to identify suitable areas for restoration actions.
Funding recommendations :
  • Donors and other actors are encouraged to actively promote new ecosystem-based mitigation approaches, and test and demonstrate their feasibility, i.a. through pilot projects with appropriate scientific support; such projects should at the same time enhance the knowledge base on the climate relevance of ecosystems other than forests and peatlands, and on best practices for strengthening their role in climate change mitigation. Multiple benefits should be addressed in both project design and scientific monitoring and evaluation. 
  • Support and capacities for the maintenance and enhancement of climate change mitigation benefits of non-forest ecosystems should be increased through communication of project results, capacity building, awareness raising and environmental education. 
  • Innovative funding instruments should be developed, tested and used. 

- Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal.