There are a number of existing international and national frameworks (conventions, programs, agreements, protocols, and more) that guide or commit parties to manage, protect, and conserve coastal blue carbon ecosystems. Many existing policies, strategies, and management approaches that address coastal and marine ecosystems, forests, or vegetation communities, also contribute to protecting coastal blue carbon ecosystems.
Paris Agreement and Nationally Determined Contributions
The Paris Agreement was a turning point for global cooperation on climate change. Parties set their own targets, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which should reflect their highest possible ambition for the contribution they can make to global greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
When countries include coastal blue carbon ecosystems in their NDCs and climate change strategies, it sends a strong signal to the rest of the world that these ecosystems are important for climate action – both for mitigation and adaptation. 28 countries have taken this step and listed coastal blue carbon ecosystems in their NDCs. 59 countries include them in their adaptation strategies (Herr and Landis, IUCN, 2016).
The Warsaw Framework for REDD+, adopted at UNFCCC Conference of Parties 19 in 2013, includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation and sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. REDD+ provides a framework for countries to improve management of forests, including measurement, reporting and verification, development of forest monitoring systems, and safeguards (including consideration of social and environmental issues). Mangroves are included in some countries’ definitions of forests and can therefore be accounted for under their REDD+ frameworks. This framework does not include tidal marshes and seagrasses.
IPCC Supplement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories
Among a range of actions by Parties to achieve the objectives of the UNFCCC is the commitment to publish national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, including from the land sector. The 2006 IPCC guidelines and earlier volumes include limited methodological guidance relevant to coastal blue carbon ecosystems. However, the ‘2013 Supplement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Wetlands’ (the Wetlands Supplement) provides emission factors and methodologies relevant to coastal wetlands that include mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass. The Wetlands Supplement allows Parties to better capture emissions/removals from mangroves, and to expand coverage into tidal marsh and seagrass meadows. Several countries have begun implementing the Wetlands Supplement in their inventory report, including Australia, the US, Japan and Canada.
International conventions, treaties and agreements are instrumental in guiding the creation of national policies that aim to achieve goals aligning with international commitments. Policy drivers are not mutually exclusive, given the complexity of coastal blue carbon ecosystems and the number of benefits they provide it is natural for numerous drivers to exist.
Beyond the policies that relate to international frameworks, countries may also develop and implement national or subnational policies that are relevant to coastal blue carbon ecosystems. Unlike policies that relate to international frameworks, national policies may not make a direct reference to ‘blue carbon’, or may not discuss carbon sequestration potential of coastal blue carbon ecosystems, focusing instead on ecosystem services.
Governments looking to assess their national blue carbon policies may wish to apply the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s National Blue Carbon Policy Assessment Framework. The tool seeks to provide countries clear answers of whether and when climate and carbon related policies and mechanisms make sense for them, and how they can be aligned with existing coastal regulation and policies.
National Blue Carbon Policy Assessment Framework – IUCN