Mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and salt marshes have long benefited coastal communities and fisheries, and in recent years have been recognized internationally for their significant capacity to sequester and store carbon, that is ‘blue carbon’. However, despite of their crucial role, these ecosystems are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth and are highly at risk due to conversions, industry, aquaculture and infrastructure development, which can in turn lead to the release of huge amounts of coastal blue carbon in the atmosphere contributing to the effect of global warming and climate change. Financing mechanisms, emission markets and appropriate policy framework can be a solution to this problem and are needed to facilitate relevant actions, as well as for investment in blue carbon.
To address the blue carbon finance challenges, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Blue Carbon Hub hosted the inaugural think-tank, on Blue Carbon Finance in Mauritius on 25-26 February 2020. The conference was attended by participants from 14 IORA Member States, 3 Dialogue Partners and international experts that were grouped together on a common platform to share knowledge, experiences and best practices on Blue carbon Finance in the IORA region.
In her opening statement, HE Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, Secretary-General of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) highlighted the importance of Blue carbon ecosystems in sequestering carbon and thus in contributing to food security, supporting economic self-sufficiency and protection of coastal communities and livelihoods. She emphasised on the need of Member States to focus on the restoration and protection of these Blue carbon ecosystems and urged Member States to explore existing or new funding mechanisms that would make carbon in coastal habitats eligible for payments, as well as make blue carbon ecosystems a good source of income, especially for developing countries and Small Island Developing States. H.E. Mrs Jenny Dee reiterated Australia’s active role in promoting the Blue Economy in the recent years and, more recently, in the protection of Blue Carbon in the Indian Ocean. She made reference to the Blue carbon Hub and she mentioned that efforts in blue carbon in the Indian Ocean can be taken even further, by harnessing public and private finance, and ensuring that the Indian Ocean region and IORA assume a lead role globally in achieving this.
Hon Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping reiterated the commitment of the government of Mauritius to make the Blue economy one of its economic pillars, with blue carbon forming an important component. He stated that one of the visions of his Ministry is the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems including Seagrass, mangrove and coral ecosystems, which have a crucial role in carbon sequestration. In addition, he pointed out the activities that are being taken in Mauritius to protect and restore blue carbon ecosystems, including, inter alia: the mangrove propagation programme in 1995; an on-going project to map and monitor the seagrass around Mauritius with the goal to determine the carbon sink potential of these seagrass areas in Mauritius to make informed-based management decisions; the proclamation of 8 Marine Protected Areas MPAs with a view to protect marine ecosystems which serve as carbon sinks; and the monitoring of changes in carbon dioxide in the marine environment in Mauritius under the project “Oceanic Carbonate Chemistry Observatory”. He highlighted the need to measure and assess the amount of blue carbon in Mauritius and to take measures to protect, if not increase, the carbon sequestration in the marine ecosystem, by increasing the coverage of mangroves, seagrass and wetlands.
The meeting resulted in concrete recommendations as a way forward to further advance development in this area, including: promote and coordinate regional research in blue carbon; the need for capacity building programmes to enhance technical expertise in the field; mapping status and condition of Blue carbon finance and identify common interests of Member States; and develop common methodologies to understand carbon stock potential in the IORA region. Participants also identified challenges and opportunities for Blue carbon finance in the region.