ICEF Blue Carbon Roadmap Executive Summary & Recommendations


Since 2014, the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF)  Annual Meeting has been held every year by the Government of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) of Japan  to engage in cross-sector leaders for lively discussion and exploration of innovation-based solutions to climate change. Released yesterday, VX News excerpts the latest ICEF Blue Carbon Roadmap, summarizing and providing recommendations for the potential of blue carbon—that is, the CO2 captured & stored by oceans and coastal ecosystems— as a nature-based solution and negative emission technology to achieve net-zero emissions. Find the full report online, here.

Executive Summary: Climate change action to limit global warming in 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels has come too late to wait. Rapid and effective emission reductions must be achieved through technological innovation, inter- and multi-sectoral collaboration, and international cooperation. At the same time, it is important to look once again at the carbon sequestration capacity of coastal and ocean coastal ecosystems and take action to maintain, restore, and rehabilitate them.

The carbon absorbed and sequestered by coastal vegetation such as mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes are called coastal blue carbon. Their sequestration potential per unit area and sequestration time are higher than those of terrestrial forests. Expectations are high for their use as a nature-based solution (NbS) and as a negative emission technology (NET). Large macroalgae (seaweed) beds and macroalgal cultivation, which have been attracting attention in recent years as new candidates for blue carbon, have yet to establish a unified international scientific methodology. Nevertheless, the scientific knowledge is accumulating, and methodologies have been developed in Japan and around the world.

Blue carbon is expected to benefit local communities in addition to its mitigation function, which is attracting worldwide attention. Blue carbon will bring various synergistic benefits, such as coastal defense, biodiversity maintenance, water purification, and cultural use value, which are also related to climate change adaptation. As an action that links global and local needs, and as an activity that brings about the mitigation, human, and biodiversity “triple benefits”, Blue Carbon projects are attracting much anticipation.

In this roadmap, Chapter 1 provides an introduction of how blue carbon has been developed in international policy and scientific forums such as the UNFCCC and IPCC, and Chapter 2 describes the scientific understanding of mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes, in the context of blue carbon, as well as macroalgal beds and macroalgal farming, which are gaining salience for their significant blue carbon potential. Chapter 3 introduces existing technologies and those expected to be developed in the future to produce, protect, measure, and use blue carbon ecosystems and their products, especially from macroalgal farming. Chapter 4 describes the points to be considered in terms of international treaties, institutional requirements, and environmental impacts when expanding Blue Carbon Projects to scale. Finally, Chapter 5 describes the current status and potential development of the Blue Carbon Credit as an economic tool necessary to make the Blue Carbon Project a sustainable action and maximize its potential.

Through the above, we envisage that this roadmap will help to recognize the gap between the current status of Blue Carbon and the goals to be reached within a time scale of the next few decades and provide a roadmap on how to fill that gap from scientific, technological, policy, and economic aspects.



Recommendation 1:  Answers to Fundamental Questions in Blue Carbon Science
Scientific understanding of the impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise and climatic disturbance, on the distribution, carbon sequestration, and carbon stock of blue carbon ecosystems and their geographic variability is required. This knowledge is particularly needed as a factor affecting the permanence of blue carbon. For established blue carbon ecosystems and macroalgae, an understanding of the global distribution area and its changes from past to present is needed to understand the baseline.

For more accurate estimation of blue carbon, in-situ CO2 gas exchange between the atmosphere and ocean and inorganic carbon production, as well as production and sequestration of organic carbon, need to be understood. In addition, it is important to combine carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes (13C and 15N), environmental DNA, and high-resolution ocean current models to understand where the organic carbon originates. In the context of climate change mitigation, knowledge of the dynamics of other GHG gases such as CH4 and N2O within blue carbon ecosystems also needs to be increased.

Many have pointed out the diversity and importance of the co-benefits of blue carbon. These co-benefits, especially the effects of enhancing biodiversity, fish, etc., are often more important to local residents than the carbon value. It is also important to develop a system to evaluate such co-benefits scientifically and holistically.

Momentum from the ongoing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN Decade of Ocean Science, and the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration should be used to advance the scientific foundation to be built, targeting 2030.

Recommendation 2:  Create blue carbon credit projects targeting various ecosystems
Policies, management (conservation, restoration, and creation), and demonstration of blue carbon benefits (including payments) targeting blue carbon ecosystems are still limited. Projects targeting mangroves have increased, but projects targeting seagrasses, salt marshes, and macroalgae are expected to develop. It is recommended that projects develop Tier 2 or higher assessments using data specific to each country and site, and it is also expected that such assessments in developing countries will be implemented under international cooperation and collaboration.

There are areas where scientific knowledge, observational techniques, economic incentives, policies, and governance are lacking, including for macroalgae, but this will be partly resolved through effective project implementation, monitoring, and reporting across sectors. It is expected that industry, government, and academia will work together to increase the number of high-quality blue carbon credit cases in the voluntary carbon market. Also, trading rules in the international carbon market needs to be clarified as soon as possible to be handled under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, and the value of blue carbon ecosystems needs to be shared in an equitable way that also returns the value to local communities.

Recommendation 3: Development of Technologies Related to the Restoration and Creation of Blue Carbon Ecosystems
Blue carbon ecosystems and macroalgal beds have been greatly reduced in area due to anthropogenic impacts and climate change, and investment in various technological developments will be necessary to rebuild these ecosystems by 2050 and bring them back to their pre-degradation state. Technology to mitigate land-based pollution, which is the cause of degradation in the first place, civil engineering methods such as blue infrastructure to restore the lost three-dimensionality or rugosity, and seedling production of macroalgae and seagrass species that are adapted to changing environments while taking genetic diversity into consideration will be necessary. In addition, in order to monitor the outcomes of restoration and creation, the development of inexpensive sensors, the sharing of data on the cloud, and the development of automatic image identification technology using machine learning are also required.


Recommendation 4:  Largescale macroalgal aquaculture projects
Large-scale seaweed farming is expected to be developed not only as a climate change mitigation measure, but also in combination with fish farming and industrial use of the products. Along with research and development by research institutions, medium- to large-scale pilot projects in coastal to offshore areas in collaboration with private sector are expected. Through these projects, it is expected that the transport of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and other forms of carbon to other sinks such as the deep sea, the development of storage mechanisms and industrial utilization technologies for the products, and the coordination of ocean utilization with other industries such as fishing and shipping (i.e., marine spatial planning, MPA) can be promoted. It would also be possible to develop various monitoring technologies.


Recommendation 5:  Establish international rules related to blue carbon

It is recommended that the IPCC Wetland Guidelines or similar international standards be updated to include macroalgal blue carbon and other blue carbon related findings. Furthermore, with regard to large-scale macroalgal farming, which has great potential for carbon sequestration and storage, it is necessary to clarify, based on scientific findings such as environmental impact assessments (EIA), how impacts on coastal and deep-sea ecosystems will be handled under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), London Convention, etc. 57

Read the full report and recommendations online, here

"...we envisage that this roadmap will help to recognize the gap between the current status of Blue Carbon and the goals to be reached within a time scale of the next few decades and provide a roadmap on how to fill that gap from scientific, technological, policy, and economic aspects."