Friday, December 9, 2011

First Policy Action Plan/ Blue Carbon

First Policy Action Plan for World's Blue Carbon
6 December 2011/ by Conservation International

"Blue Carbon Policy Framework" is Released at U.N. Climate Talks in Durban; Highlights Results of First Meeting of International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group

Durban, South Africa/Arlington, VA — The first policy framework outlining activities needed to include coastal marine areas such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses into the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been presented in a report by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Conservation International (CI), two of the leading members of the Blue Carbon Initative.

The report, "Blue Carbon Policy Framework" (PDF), outlines the opportunities for including the conservation of coastal areas in the climate change policies and financing processes currently being negotiated in Durban. The study also highlights the need for the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the voluntary carbon market to take coastal marine ecosystems into account.

"The oceans and marine biodiversity are crucial in regulating the global climate", says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme. "Oceans absorb 93.4 percent of the heat produced by climate change as well as one third of human-induced carbon dioxide. Coastal areas also have an exceptional capacity to store carbon. But currently natural solutions that the marine world offers to climate change challenges are rarely taken into account in international climate change policy."

The UNFCCC and the mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation), support the conservation and restoration of terrestrial forests as a way to reduce the effects of climate change. But the importance of coastal carbon sinks, such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses, is not yet fully recognized by the Convention.

Although coastal ecosystems cover only one to two percent of the area covered by forests globally, improving their management can supplement efforts to reduce emissions from tropical forest degradation. A square kilometer of a coastal ecosystem can store up to five times more carbon than a square kilometer of mature tropical forests. But currently these areas are being destroyed three to four times faster than forests, releasing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the ocean, and contributing to climate change.

"We think this recognition is critical," explains report co-author Dr. Emily Pidgeon, Conservation International's Senior Director of Marine Strategic Initiatives and a leading Blue Carbon conservation scientist. "The management of carbon in coastal systems can already be included in a number of UNFCCC and REDD+ components. This plan was produced to help detail what we see as key next steps in terms of a full integration of blue carbon into existing initiatives."

"We now have scientific evidence that conserving mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses and other blue carbon habitats is a very precious tool in our fight against climate change," says Pierre-Yves Cousteau, IUCN's Goodwill Ambassador and founder of Cousteau Divers, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the marine world. "These muddy coastal areas also help us adapt to the changing climate. They protect local communities from storms and regulate the quality of coastal water. Increased recognition of their importance among the climate change community will hopefully improve the way they're managed and conserved."

"We need to convince the broader policy community that blue carbon has a strong scientific basis and that it should be taken into account as a valuable tool in our suite of global efforts to confront and adapt to the impacts of climate change. We also need decision makers to understand that this tool requires adequate funding to maximize the many benefits it provides to people," adds Pidgeon

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blue Carbon; Green Harbors

Blue Carbon; Green Harbors

6 December 2011/ by Lisa Greber/ Global Environmental Governance Project

In North Durban, the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is a 76 hectare reserve with the largest population of mangrove trees still remaining in the Durban area. Mangroves are at first sight ungainly trees, with rough bark and contorted branches, but they are a critical part of coastal ecosystems, providing shoreline protection from storm surge and beach erosion, and habitat for numerous species. The plants survive in the difficult conditions of the intertidal, submerged in salty water, and often in anoxic, oxygen deprived mud. Their roots, if remaining fully submerged, can offer hard surfaces for the growth of barnacles, sponges, and oysters.

This is the life behind the phrase “blue carbon” heard throughout COP17.

The loss of blue carbon means that globally coastal ecosystems – mangroves, salt marshes, eelgrass, and shellfish – have been lost to development, over-harvesting, and disease. Mangrove forests once likely covered the Durban coastal area, as did salt marshes along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Restoring these habitats may hold promise to mitigate the effects of global warming, both as carbon storage and as shoreline protection against rising seas. Restoration also supports the complex ecosystems of organisms that find their homes there.

Anamarija Frankic, director of the Green Boston Harbor Project (GBH) at the Center for Governance and Sustainability is not sure if the new language will be sufficient to encourage communities to restore coastal and marine habitats such as mangroves, salt marshes and shellfish beds. Little has been done to protect them before, she says, even knowing their tremendous ecological services and values. But there are hopeful signs. On some beaches around Durban, patches of mangrove are growing.

The Umgeni River wanders some 230 km before opening into the Beachwood mangrove reserve. In Boston, the Charles, the Neponset, and the Mystic Rivers drain into Boston Harbor. The health of “blue carbon” depends on the watersheds upstream, on the choices upland communities make to protect the water, as much as it does on the restoration efforts on the shore. The water connects us.

Each harbor is different, each one is similar. GBH has started a network of global green harbors to share best practices and community around the globe.

We were always a blue planet, says Anamarija, meaning the rough wild Indian Ocean of Durban’s shores, water that has traveled its way around the world. In the end it is not the name for “blue carbon” that matters, but the mangroves themselves, and our collective willingness to care for our particular coastal habitats and harbors in the context of a global whole.

(Based on reports from Durban from GBH Director Anamarija Frankic)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bellona/ Blue Carbon

‘We will make the oceans blue, bind carbon and create green jobs’

4 December 2011/ by Magnus Borgen (Bellona), Charles Digges (translator)/ Durban Climate Summit

From left to right: Ik-Kyo Chung of Pusan National University in South Korea; Dorothée Herr of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Bellona President Frederic Hauge.

DURBAN, South Africa – Sustainable marine biomass was on the agenda when Bellona hosted a debate at its venue at the Durban UN Climate Summit.

“Marine biomass has vast theoretical potential internationally and can play an important role as a key solution in future climate treaties,”* said Bellona President Frederic Hauge.

“Now we are discussing environmental issues I am passionate about, and Bellona will do much work in the future. What we are talking about now may be the next major new weapon in the fight against climate change,” said Hauge as Bellona presented its integrated aquaculture program to a large international audience from four continents in Bellona’s delegation room Friday.

From COP14 in Poznan for COP17 in Durban

This side event in Durban was held due to a side event at COP14 in Poznan, Poland where Haugue and Svend Søyland, Bellona’s adviser on international energy and climate issues were present. At COP14, Hauge and Søyland attended an event during which South Korean Professor Ik-Kyo Chung from Pusan National University was speaking of his work on how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced with the use of algae, seaweed and kelp. Chung presented encouraging and positive results of his university research on how seaweed farming can be a mitigation tactic to reduce greenhouse gasses that would be released into the atmosphere.

Chung argued here in Durban that is very important to establish a system within the international climate regime where one could get certified interim emissions reductions from algae growing in the sea, as there are major climate gains to be achieved via a solid focus on this type of marine biomass.

Along with Bellona and South Korea’s Chung, Dorothée Herr of the International Union for Conservation of Nature was also on the dais in Bellona’s conference room. The IUCN is a recognized international organization with a membership base of more than 1000 organizations and 10,000 scientists and experts.

“Climate negotiators should focus on creating incentives for preserving marine ecosystems such as mangroves, and punish those who harm it,” said Herr to those assembles.

Herr pointed out that the oceans are a very important habitat, and that the process of carbon bonding in water-bound saline plants is higher than that of plants on land. Herr therefore presented good arguments that mangrove forests at sea should be implemented in the UN’s REDD+ rainforest preservation mechanism at the climate negotiations. Carbon sequestration at sea, also called Blue Carbon, has 20 percent of the potential that REDD has.

“Mangrove binds much carbon in the soil, and the IUCN will work for this to get increased attention as an important international climate measure,” said Herr.

Too many people think small thoughts about the environment and climate

Frederic Hauge opened his speech by pointing out that if one were to cover the biofuel needs of the world’s aviation industry by cultivating soybeans, one would need to cultivate an area the size of Europe and the Ukraine.

“If the same amount of biomass production should take place through algae production on land, then one would only need an area the size of Belgium,” said Hauge.

Hauge argued that there are great opportunities for all coastal nations around the world to see the exciting low cost synergies between the fishing industry, offshore renewable energy and the cultivation of seaweed and kelp. He noted that there is a very large theoretical potential for offshore wind turbines becoming a very good habitat for fish and marine biomass.

“We don’t have all the answers just yet, but working further  with integrated fish farming in the fight against climate change is doubtless something that must have more resources,” said Hauge.

The world community needs to create green jobs for 2 billion people who need jobs the next 20 years, both people and animals need food, we need medicine and Omega 3 and not least, we need much more bioenergy, said Hauge enthusiastically. Hauge also pointed out Bellona’s algae work in Madagascar as an example of how developing coastal strip counties have more theoretical potential for development than many think.
“Bellona’s focus on integrated aquaculture is part of a tradition where we focus on solution-oriented work. There are too many people who think small thoughts about climate change,” said Hauge.

“I think it's very inspiring to work with environmental protection and be here in Durban where we can work to make the sky blue with our CCS work, the desert green with the Sahara Forest Project, and to make the ocean blue and exploit very exciting synergies with Bellona’s coming Ocean Forest Project,” said a very optimistic Hauge.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oceans Day at Durban/ Blue Carbon

Oceans Day at Durban Discusses Blue Carbon

3 December 2011/ by iisd

 Oceans Day 2011, part of the Durban Climate Change Conference, addressed various issues related to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), including the concept of blue carbon and the green economy.

Oceans Day took place on 3 December 2011, on the sidelines of the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa.

Participants engaged in a session on "Oceans and coasts at the UNFCCC and at Rio+20: The need for concerted action," with a number of speakers underlining the need for strengthened blue carbon policy capacity, and for accelerating the uptake of ocean and coastal-based carbon mitigation approaches. Biliana Cicin-Sain, President, Global Ocean Forum, underscored the importance of achieving greater equity in management of fisheries with greater benefits for coastal communities, noting the relevance of this issue in the Rio+20 process.

The meeting forwarded a Chair's statement to COP 17, in which the global oceans community calls attention to the need to develop an integrated programme for oceans and coasts within and beyond the UNFCCC. It recommends various actions, including deepening understanding and policy approaches to support blue carbon.

Oceans Day was co-organized by the Global Ocean Forum, in association with a number of partners, including the Government of South Africa, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the GEF/UNDP/UN Environment Programme (UNEP) African LME projects. [IISD RS Coverage] [Oceans Day at Durban Co-Chairs’ Statement]