Coastal waters as carbon sinks – matching science and policy

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Transcript Coastal waters as carbon sinks – matching science and policy

COASTAL WATERS AS CARBON SINKSMATCHING SCIENCE AND POLICY
Adjunct Professor Rob Fowler,
Law School,
University of South Australia
INTRODUCTION
“Maintaining or improving the ability of forests and
oceans to absorb and bury CO2 is a crucial aspect of
climate change mitigation. The contribution of forests
in sequestering carbon is well known and is supported
by relevant financial mechanisms. In contrast, the
critical role of oceans has been overlooked.”
UNEP, Blue Carbon, 2009, Executive Summary.
RECENT INTERNATIONAL REPORTS ON “BLUE” CARBON:
 Blue Carbon (UNEP, FAO & UNESCO, 2009)
 The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks
(Laffoley and Grimsditch, eds., IUCN, 2010)
 Natural Solutions (IUCN WCPA, 2010)
 International Working Group on Coastal Carbon,
Recommendations (March 2011)
 Climate Focus, Blue Carbon Policy Options Assessment ,
2011.
THE ROLE OF MARINE AND COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS AS
CARBON SINKS: CAPTURE AND STORAGE (PER UNEP
REPORT, 2009)
 Out of all the carbon captured by ecosystems, 55% is captured by
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marine living organisms (“blue carbon”);
Oceans constitute the largest long-term sink for carbon – some
93% of the Earth’s stored CO2 (40Tt) is stored and cycled
through the oceans.;
Vegetated marine habitats – comprising mangroves, sea-grasses,
kelp forests and salt marshes – account for 50-70% of all carbon
storage in ocean sediments;
Over 20 years, by preventing further loss and degradation of
coastal ecosystems, could offset 3-7% of current fossil fuel
emissions ;
Would have the effect of contributing equivalent to at least 10%
of the emissions reductions needed to keep CO2 concentrations
below 450ppm.
COMPARISON OF CARBON SINK CAPACITIES OF COASTAL
ECOSYSTEMS TO THOSE OF TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS (PER
IUCN REPORT, 2010)
 The carbon sequestration potential of coastal marine
ecosystems compares favourably with, and in some
respects, may exceed the potential of carbon sinks on land;
 The absolute comparative value of the carbon sequestered
per unit area may well outweigh the importance of similar
processes on land, due to the lower potential for the
emission of other powerful GHG’s such as methane;
 Salt marshes (and possibly mangroves also) probably have
a greater value than any other natural ecosystem per
molecule of CO2 sequestered (cf., also for mangroves)
COMPARISON OF CARBON SINK CAPACITIES OF COASTAL
ECOSYSTEMS TO THOSE OF TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS
 The rate of carbon storage in the sediment by salt marshes, mangroves
and seagrasses is approximately 10 times the rate observed in temperate
forests and 50 times the rate observed in tropical forests;
 Thus, the long term sequestration of carbon by 1 Km² of mangrove
area is equivalent to that occurring in 50 km² of tropical forest;
 The total annual loss of mangroves and seagrasses has a long term
impact in terms of lost carbon sequestration capacity similar to the
annual deforestation rate in the Amazon ;
 The total carbon sequestration capacity lost through mangrove and
seagrass clearing is equivalent to the sediment sequestration capacity
of a tropical forest area greater than the Amazon forest.
IUCN Report at p. 49 (per Pidgeon, Conservation International).
ESTABLISHING THE SCIENCE TO JUSTIFY POLICY
INTITIATIVES RE BLUE CARBON
 UNEP Report 2009 criticized for providing incorrect data re
carbon sequestration capacity of marine ecosystems ;
 There is an urgent need for additional scientific research in this
context to fill significant gaps in relation to the actual levels of
capture and storage of carbon in these sinks;
 Attempts by marine scientists to promote the relative benefits of
coastal marine ecosystems as carbon sinks, compared to tropical
and temperate forests, obfuscate their ultimate capacity and risk
future criticism on the same lines as some elements of the IPCC’s
4AR
 More recent admissions of uncertainty by IUCN: “While highly
efficient in sequestering carbon, the actual amount of carbon
stored in seagrass meadows is not known. Thus neither the
ongoing nor the potential GHG emissions that may arise from
further damage to these systems can be quantified reliably”
RECENT SCIENTIFIC INITIATIVE RE BLUE CARBON - THE
INTERNATIONAL WORKING GROUP ON COASTAL (“BLUE”)
CARBON
 Established in 2011 by IUCN, UNESCO and Conservation
International ;
 First workshop held in Paris, 15-17 February 2011
 Sought to identify coastal carbon “hotspots” and to
estimate possible emissions from degradation of coastal
ecosystems ;
 Second workshop to be held in Bali, Indonesia in July
2011
INTERNATIONAL WORKING GROUP ON COASTAL
(“BLUE”) CARBON
 3 broad areas of recommendations from initial meeting:
 More research re the capacity for carbon storage in coastal systems
and the emissions resulting from degradation;
 Existing knowledge of carbon benefits is sufficient to warrant
enhanced local regional measures to protect coastal ecosystems;
 Greater international recognition by engaging the UNFCC to account
for the management of coastal ecosystems, in particular:
 Inclusion in IPCC technical guidance on GHG emissions
reporting;
 Long-term reporting of coastal-related GHG emissions in relation
to sources and sinks;
 Develop financial incentives for compensation for actions leading
to reductions in emissions from coastal ecosystems;
 Include mangrove conservation and restoration activities in
national REDD+ strategies, policies and measures.
THREATS TO COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS AND RATES OF LOSS
Threats include:
 unsustainable natural resources use practices- leading to
nutrient and sediment runoff from land (with impacts on seagrasses) – e.g., deforestation, agricultural runoff;
 poor watershed management;
 inappropriate/unsustainable coastal development – e.g.,
 displacement of mangrove forests by urban development and
aquaculture;
 dredging, filling or drainage that causes sediment-loading,
eutrophication and loss of biodiversity
 poor waste management (e.g., ocean sewerage outfalls,
industrial runoff)
 oil spills
 over-fishing. (UNEP/IUCN)
THREATS TO COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS AND RATES OF LOSS
 Rates of loss of coastal marine ecosystems are much higher
than any other ecosystem on the planet, in some instances up to
four times that of rainforests;
 measured currently at 2-7% per annum, a seven-fold increase to
only 50 years ago. UNEP
 pressures have reduced global range of mangrove forests to less
than 50% of the original total cover – originally occupied 75% of
the tropical coats worldwide. IUCN 17. Current rate of loss is 118
km² per year.
 Two-thirds of the world’s seagrass meadows within inhabited
areas have been lost through human activities that lead to
eutrophication and siltation. IUCN 23. Reduced by 50% over a
period of 15 years (to 2005), Current rate of loss is 110 km² per
year.
IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE – AN ADDITIONAL THREAT
 Climate driven changes in the frequency and intensity
of storms are likely to have one of the largest impacts
on the production and storage of kelp carbon as
disturbance from waves is one of the main factors
affecting the standing crops of kelps. IUCN 34-5.
 According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World:
2008, we have lost 19% of the original area of coral
reefs since 1950, 15% of coral reefs are in a critical state
with loss possible in the next 10 to 20 years, and a
further 20% are seriously threatened with loss
predicted within 20-40 years. IUCN 39
POLICY/LEGAL MEASURES - INTERNATIONAL
 Carbon accounting measures (under UNFCCC
and Kyoto Protocol)
 GHG emissions that occur as a result of the [inadequate] management
of coastal and marine habitats are not being accounted for in
international climate change mechanisms (ie, UNFCCC, Kyoto, CDM,
etc.).
 Thus, countries are underestimating their anthropogenic emissions ;
 Also any carbon savings from measures to protect and restore coastal
marine habitats do not count towards meeting international and
national climate change commitments (IUCN ES).
 Bonn Climate Talks(May 2011) acknowledged coastal marine
ecosystems for the first time
POLICY/LEGAL MEASURES - INTERNATIONAL
I REDD + : extension to coastal ecosystems
 Carbon revenue schemes could take the marine equivalent of the
REDD scheme on land to safeguard these critical coastal carbon
sinks. Don’t just think REDD, think coastal too! (IUCN ES).
II Carbon credits : including for coastal ecosystem
rehabilitation under the flexible mechanisms (JI,
CDM and carbon markets) or NAMA’s
 a precursor to inclusion of coastal marine sinks in mechanisms
such as the CDM is the recognition of such sinks in the
accounting and reporting measures developed under the UNFCC
and KP, therefore these are not options at present
CLIMATE FOCUS REPORT ON POLICY OPTIONS (2011)
 Develop and improve IPCC reporting guidelines,
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particulalrly re sea-grasses ;
Ensure NAMa’s include actions that address blue
carbon
Utilize REDD+, which could possibly include
mangroves within definition of forests;
Increase recognition within voluntary carbon market;
Increase support under adaptation funding.
POLICY/LEGAL MEASURES - NATIONAL
 Protected areas: MPA’s and spatial marine planning
 Integrated coastal management (ICM) – buffer zones
and better regulation of coastal development
 Other – ecosystem rehabilitation etc.
 “Restoration of tidal salt marshes is an excellent way to
increase the world’s natural carbon sinks. Returning the tides
to drained agricultural marsh can make a significant increase
in the salt marsh carbon sink” e.g., UK “managed realignment
program” to shift embankments inland and restore flooding of
agricultural marshes. IUCN, 10.
CONCLUSIONS – LAW AND POLICY (INTERNATIONAL)
 At the international level, climate mitigation strategies at present do
not take into account coastal marine sinks; these are the “overlooked”
element of LULUCF-related measures, which have a focus exclusively
on the terrestrial environment (forests and soils, in particular) ;
 A fundamental problem is that current accounting and reporting rules
under the UNFCCC and KP do not allow for the inclusion of coastal
marine ecosystems, so that emissions from these sources are not
included in national inventories or reports;
 A further consequence is that mitigation schemes such as the CDM
and REDD are not able to extend to activities such as the protection or
rehabilitation of coastal marine ecosystems;
 It may be necessary to improve scientific understanding of the carbon
sequestration capacity of these coastal marine sinks before they can be
included in carbon accounts and hence be considered for inclusion
within relevant mitigation strategies
CONCLUSIONS – LAW AND POLICY (NATIONAL)
 In the absence of relevant, climate-related measures at the
international level, there is currently no requirement or marketbased incentive to develop appropriate protective measures for
coastal marine ecosystems at the national level;
 However, the other ecosystem services provided by coastal
marine ecosystems, coupled with their likely carbon
sequestration capacities, provide strong grounds for
precautionary action by national governments anyway;
 Such precautionary action should include marine spatial
planning; development of marine protected areas: area-based
fisheries management: integrated coastal management that
includes better control of coastal development and the provision
of buffer zones where possible; and the promotion of the
rehabilitation of degraded or destroyed coastal marine
ecosystems.
IN SHORT...
It is now a matter of great urgency to take action to
conserve, protect and restore the Earth’s extremely
valuable coastal marine ecosystems, and in particular
to avoid devoting disproportionate efforts to terrestrial
ecosystems at the expense of their coastal marine
counterparts. (Fowler, 2011!)