» Coastal blue carbon ecosystems – Supporting food security, sustainable oceans and climate action
08.06.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Coastal blue carbon ecosystems – Supporting food security, sustainable oceans and climate action

© UNESCO - Participants to the event on blue carbon ecosystems on 7 June 2017 at the UN Ocean Conference in New York.

Blue carbon ecosystems – seagrasses, tidal marshes and mangroves – provide critical services such as coastal protection, disaster risk reduction, water filtration and fisheries habitat. On 7 June 2017, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO co-organized an event highlighting the importance of these ecosystems and their sustainable management at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York.

Organized by the Government of Australia, which has the second most blue carbon ecosystem in the world, this side event highlighted how the concept of coastal carbon can be used in a variety of ways to meet sustainable development goal targets and national level climate commitments. It showcased several policy and funding mechanisms for implementing coastal carbon related activities, such as the Dominican Republic incorporating blue carbon in a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) or the Seychelles developing a “blue bond” that includes blue carbon.

The event also presented the latest science and tools, and informed about various technical working groups aimed at assisting interested parties in pursuing coastal carbon restoration and conservation.

“The coastal ecosystems of mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows provide numerous benefits and services that are essential for climate change adaptation along coasts globally. They are crucial for ocean and human health,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary.

Understanding of how coastal carbon ecosystems function and their potential has increased over the last few years, but more needs to be done. The time has come to implement this knowledge through national, regional, and international policy and management activities. It is for this reason that the Government of Australia – along with IOC through its Blue Carbon Initiative*, among others – launched an International Partnership for Blue Carbon during the COP21 in Paris in December 2015: to build awareness, share knowledge and enhance action to protect and restore coastal blue carbon ecosystems.

“IOC is committed to improve the underlying science and data access, to assist Member States in considering coastal blue ecosystems in the Nationally Determined Contributions under the UNFCCC, and finally to achieve the ambitious target of the Paris Agreement,” added Vladimir Ryabinin.

The day was also the occasion to launch a Global Blue Carbon Data and Knowledge Network. This is a joint commitment of the Blue Carbon Initiative, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, and several other partners to the UN Ocean Conference. The network will act as an international resource that meets the increasing need for data sharing among blue carbon stakeholders, for purposes ranging from basic research and learning to policy development and management, across regions and globally.

“My vision for what we will have achieved with regard to blue carbon ecosystems in 10 years? I want people to get bored by my explanations, and that protection and conservation of blue carbon ecosystems becomes something ‘normal’, something we do naturally,” stated Emily Pidgeon, Senior Director of Strategic Marine Initiatives at Conservation International.

All details about the initiative can be found on The Ocean Conference Registry of Voluntary Commitments alongside other commitments undertaken by Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, scientific institutions and other stakeholders towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to conserve and sustainable use our ocean.

Please visit our page “UNESCO @ UN Ocean Conference” for a comprehensive view of the programme, our side events and all our voluntary commitments.

For more information, please contact:

Kirsten Isensee (k.isensee(at)unesco.org), for information about the Blue Carbon Initiative and the Global Blue Carbon Data and Knowledge Network.

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org), for information about the participation of UNESCO’s IOC at the Ocean Conference.


* Co-organized with Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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