Environmental Policy News

New Initiative to Help Navigate Untapped ‘Blue Carbon’ and Restore Coastal Ecosystems

The World Economic Forum’s Ocean Action Agenda has launched a new initiative, the Blue Carbon Action Partnership (BCAP), to help meet the rapidly increasing demand for “blue carbon” credits and projects around the world.

The partnership, announced at the Our Ocean Conference in Panama and funded by the UK government, will support governments in working with businesses, communities, and civil society organizations to restore, conserve, and sustainably manage coastal ecosystems.

Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes store up to five times more carbon per acre than tropical rainforests—a phenomenon known as “blue carbon”. They contribute over $190 billion annually to blue carbon wealth. This brings livelihoods and revenues to coastal communities, bolsters coastal storm and flood defenses, and strengthens ocean habitats for marine life, including species that are critical to commercially important coastal fisheries. However, the burgeoning development of emerging blue carbon markets risks deprioritizing sustainability.

Governments are keen to harness the potential of blue carbon resources to achieve their national climate goals, and key private sector players such as Apple and Salesforce are eager to tap into the emerging blue carbon market. But the demand for blue carbon credits and projects currently far outweighs the supply, due to ambiguous policy frameworks, cost of project development and verification, and limited guidance. The new BCAP will work with countries to catalyze and amplify quality blue carbon efforts and pipelines to benefit coastal communities, biodiversity, and the climate.

“The Blue Carbon Action Partnership promises to be a game-changer in terms of how we can support the global community as it navigates a course ahead for responsible, sustainable, ethical, and positively impactful blue carbon development. We are immensely grateful to the UK government for its generous support. BCAP will elevate the multiple benefits of blue carbon ecosystems—from supporting food security and livelihoods to ensuring coastal protection and sequestering carbon, and I could not be more excited and optimistic for its launch and the great potential of this initiative,” said Kristian Teleki, Director of the Ocean Action Agenda, World Economic Forum.

At a global level, BCAP will work with key stakeholders to tackle policy and investment challenges; at a national level, BCAP will support individual countries in achieving their national climate ambitions and coordinating existing initiatives. BCAP will also engage with corporate players to drive investment in blue carbon projects via implementation of the High-Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance, published recently in a collaboration between the World Economic Forum and several of the world’s leading organizations working on blue carbon.

BCAP also prioritizes inclusive benefit-sharing for the greatest possible positive impact on those who live and work closest to the coastal ecosystems where blue carbon is being developed.

“Protecting and restoring coastal and marine habitats that benefit communities, climate, and nature is a core aim of the UK’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund. That’s why the fund is supporting the Blue Carbon Action Partnership delivered by the World Economic Forum. The partnership will provide important assistance to developing countries to unlock the potential of blue carbon finance and achieve a meaningful, sustainable impact for marine habitats and the people and biodiversity that depend on them,” said Zac Goldsmith, the UK’s Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and the Environment.

The UK government’s newly launched Climate and Ocean Adaptation and Sustainable Transition (COAST) program will provide up to £4 million in funding to BCAP. The COAST program forms part of the UK’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund, which aims to protect and enhance the marine environment and reduce poverty. The Blue Planet Fund is led by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

At a national scale, BCAP will pilot the creation of country-based National Blue Carbon Action Partnerships (NBCAPs). The first of these was announced by the Indonesian government at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos in January. NBCAPs convene local stakeholders across sectors and initiatives who have an interest in blue carbon to develop a national roadmap that addresses the country’s specific priorities and catalyzes strategic financing.

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