Blue carbon: an ally in combating climate change

Coastal-marine ecosystems and communities are highly susceptible to climate change. They are already suffering from the negative effects of increased and more frequent storms, storm surges and hurricanes; coral mortality; decline in fisheries and other extractive resources associated with food security and livelihoods; loss of tourism potential; coastal erosion; and displacement of infrastructure. If sea level rise trends continue, nearly one billion people will be affected around the world by 2050.

The cost of global inaction far exceeds that associated with our urgent climate change adaptation needs. This urgency is greatest in our region, one of the most critically threatened by the negative impacts of climate change worldwide.

Given this dynamic and since 2011, CATIE has been one of the global pioneers of “blue carbon”, developing scientific and political actions as innovative tools for climate action to strengthen the flows of ecosystem services and the livelihoods of rural marine-coastal populations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Toward this end, CATIE focuses on mangroves as the main ecosystems capable of providing a range of climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions for our developing societies.

After a decade of work on the issue, an emerging and basically unknown global issue has been positioned as a technical and political priority to increase the climate ambition of countries within the Paris Agreement. CATIE’s current leadership is undeniable: it is an important member of the International Partnership for Blue Carbon, one of the largest intergovernmental and multisectoral platforms developing the theme. CATIE has a permanent presence in the Scientific Working Group of the International Blue Carbon Initiative, the most important scientific and policy advisory platform in the world; and its senior specialist in the subject is the lead author of the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere. At the national level, methods for quantifying blue carbon stocks in mangroves have been developed and technical capacities strengthened in 75% of the countries in Central America and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the development of policy statements, instruments and actions has been facilitated in the service of the governments of Costa Rica and Colombia. The integrated institutional vision – natural resources, society and sustainable development – is making it possible to enhance the innovative synergies needed to meet the goals above and to strengthen the economic, social and ecological resilience of the marine-coastal territories of the American continent.

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