Coastwide
(Yuichi Ishida/UNDP Timor-Leste CC BY-NC 2.0)

World - Coastal and Marine Carbon Offsets are Taking Root

Where there’s muck there’s brass”, goes an old saying from northern England. Brass is slang for money, and those with a lot of it are today eyeing up with great interest a particular type of muck. Muddy, smelly, shoe-sucking sediment full of what’s known as blue carbon.

Where there’s muck there’s brass”, goes an old saying from northern England. Brass is slang for money, and those with a lot of it are today eyeing up with great interest a particular type of muck. Muddy, smelly, shoe-sucking sediment full of what’s known as blue carbon.

The latest buzzword in climate finance, blue carbon is the carbon stored in the ocean, particularly coastal ecosystems, such as mangrove swamps, salt marshes and seagrass meadows. It takes the form of organic matter, mainly decaying plant leaves, wood, roots and dead animals, captured under sediment and stored sometimes for thousands of years.

Just like with forests and tree-planting on land, markets are developing for the protection and restoration of these carbon-heavy environments as a way to mitigate climate change.

“There’s so much appetite for blue carbon projects,” says Peter Macreadie, an environmental scientist at Deakin University, Australia. “Massive corporates and nations have woven blue carbon into their abatement plans and portfolios.” Apple and Gucci are among the high-profile brands to have invested in blue carbon schemes.

It’s a remarkable turnaround. For decades, environmental campaigners have tried and largely failed to secure protection for these coastal ecosystems. As well as reducing the force of onshore storms, they boost biodiversity and provide food and livelihoods.

“Swamps haven’t been sexy for a long time,” says Sebastian Thomas, who works on sustainability at Curtin University in Australia. “But in the last 10 or 15 years, communities of scientists, of NGOs, of activists, have been really pushing and saying, ‘Look, this stuff matters.’”

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