WASHINGTON, November 21, 2023—Conserving and restoring blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, which capture more carbon than forests, can help fight climate change, create meaningful jobs, and improve people’s quality of life, says a new World Bank report.
Unlocking Blue Carbon Development, financed by the multi-donor trust fund PROBLUE, reveals that blue carbon storage in coastal and marine ecosystems, from mangroves to seagrass, is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. For example, stopping seagrass destruction and degradation worldwide could save up to 650 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, roughly equivalent to the entire annual emissions of the global shipping industry.
“Investing in saving and replenishing mangroves, seagrasses, and other natural blue carbon storage systems can support a world free of poverty on a livable planet,” said Valerie Hickey, World Bank Global Director for Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy. “These ecosystems not only store carbon, but also provide a multitude of benefits, including supporting fisheries and food security, promoting tourism and jobs, helping to protect coastal communities from climate disasters, and providing natural habitats for wildlife.”
Blue carbon ecosystems demonstrate how development, climate, and nature work together to feed, protect, empower, and uplift communities. An estimated 4.1 million small-scale fishers globally rely on mangroves for fishing. Mangroves also protect more than 6 million people from annual flooding and prevent additional annual losses of US$24 billion of productive assets.
The report offers a first-of-its kind framework and recommendations to guide countries through the process of investing in blue carbon:
- Data and Analytics: Develop greenhouse gas inventories and promote the consideration of blue natural capital in decision making.
- Policies and Institutions: Strengthen the enabling environment to maximize local benefits of blue carbon and leverage partnerships to manage risks and influence the global agenda.
- Finance: Adopt a holistic approach to mobilizing finance, access international grant funding for blue carbon readiness, promote public-private partnerships (PPPs) for blue carbon market development, and identify value chains to reduce ecosystem degradation.
The report notes that despite these staggering benefits, blue carbon ecosystems have been eroded. More than 50 percent of the world’s original salt marshes were lost during the twentieth century and this degradation continues to date. “People don’t realize how powerful these carbon sinks are – they store five times more carbon than forests,” said Michele Diez, Senior Environmental Specialist and Program Manager of PROBLUE. “If disturbed, the carbon that has been stored in these ecosystems for thousands of years will be released in the atmosphere –with harmful impacts to our climate. The time is now for governments to invest in these powerful ecosystems. The World Bank is ready to support our partners to invest in a livable planet.”