Research indicates that coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass beds can store up to five times more carbon than many temperate and tropical forests, yet these vital environments are being destroyed and degraded at a rapid pace.
Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) continue to work together to coordinate the Blue Carbon Initiative, the first integrated program with a comprehensive and coordinated global agenda focused on mitigating climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal marine ecosystems. Earlier this month in Brussels, the Blue Carbon Policy Working Group met for the second time at the European Union Parliament.
At the Brussels meeting, Blue Carbon policy and science experts discussed the role of coastal ecosystems as carbon sinks, the potential economic value of coastal carbon and the growing importance of Blue Carbon activities for the European Commission.
Struan Stevenson, a member of the European Parliament and chair of the Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, made the following remarks regarding the issue of climate change and the role of coastal ecosystems as an important piece of the solution:
We cannot afford any longer to overlook the critical role of our oceans. Without the essential ecosystem service they provide, climate change would be far worse. Oceans are our Blue Carbon sinks. Keeping them in good shape could be one of the most important things that we could do to keep climate change under control. But to achieve this we have to reduce the rate of marine and coastal ecosystem degradation.
Despite the vital role of marine and coastal ecosystems in mitigating climate change, International and European policy makers pay too little attention to Blue Carbon. It is almost an unknown and too often overshadowed issue in the European decision-making process. I am convinced that preserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems should be fully integrated in all climate change mitigation strategies and biodiversity policies at international and European levels.
I would like to thank the Intergroup and Mr. Stevenson for hosting last week’s workshop and for providing their insight and support in this effort. The partnerships formed in Brussels will be important to ensure Blue Carbon policy is incorporated into international efforts mitigating global climate change. I look forward to the next meeting of the International Blue Carbon Initiative, which will convene the Science Working Group in March in Costa Rica.
Dr. Emily Pidgeon is senior director of strategic marine initiatives in CI’s Global Marine division. To learn more about the Blue Carbon Initiative, download this fact sheet (PDF–309.11 KB).