Why Blue Carbon Matters

Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve Project, by Crystal Riedemann

Blue carbon refers to carbon stored in the above and belowground biomass and rich soil pools of coastal and marine environments. These ecosystems store massive amounts of carbon, making them an integral part of global efforts to combat climate change. Their carbon sinks are affected, however, when they are degraded or destroyed, resulting in CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere.

More efforts—and finance options—are needed to conserve these vitally important habitats.

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program incentivizes protecting coastal and inland wetland ecosystems by enabling organizations, businesses, and other entities to leverage carbon finance to fund conservation and restoration activities.

I. Coastal and Tidal Blue Carbon

Mangroves, tidal salt marshes, and seagrass meadows sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. They also provide essential co-benefits, such as coastal protection from storms, food security for coastal communities, and improved water quality. Coastal environments’ ability to remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere makes them globally significant carbon sinks and an essential part of the solution to mitigate climate change.

Verra currently has the following methodologies available for the conservation and restoration of coastal and tidal blue carbon ecosystems:

Conservation and Restoration

Restoration

Entities can apply these methodologies to conservation and restoration projects to quantify the emission reduction and removal benefits and be issued Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) to sell in the voluntary carbon market.

Verra’s Innovation in Coastal and Tidal Blue Carbon

Blue Carbon Working Group
Verra formed a Blue Carbon Working Group in early 2020 to explore and address challenges and opportunities for coastal wetland restoration and conservation. The group provides recommendations for how the VCS and supporting methodologies can incentivize blue carbon activities.

Wetland Restoration and Conservation (WRC) Requirements
Developed by Verra and a working group of technical experts, the WRC requirements enable the crediting of restoration and conservation activities across wetland ecosystems under the VCS Program. The WRC requirements apply to all wetland ecosystems, not only those considered “blue carbon,”  and include accounting for ecological leakage (defined as changes in GHG emissions from ecosystems that are hydrologically connected to the project area) and other innovations.

II. Ocean Blue Carbon

Marine ecosystems and related ocean activities such as seaweed farming, kelp forest restoration, and seabed management sequester and store carbon in ocean waters and sediments. No methodologies under the VCS Program currently support these activities.

The scientific community is rapidly investigating these ecosystems’ carbon storage potential and how activities like seaweed farming might enhance that potential. Verra is exploring how the VCS Program could be expanded to support these emerging activities.

Verra’s Innovation in Ocean Blue Carbon

Ocean Carbon Working Group
In response to the urgent need for scientifically robust and market-oriented nature-based solutions, Verra is establishing the Ocean Carbon Working Group (WG) to identify and develop updates to the VCS Program that would facilitate and expand support for ocean-based project activities. Similar to the Blue Carbon Working Group, the members will provide input on concepts and topics to inform VCS Program development.

Seascape Carbon Initiative
The Seascape Carbon Initiative (SCI) enables engagement and offers guidance in identifying emerging issues, research, and legal considerations to support the development of carbon crediting methodologies to quantify and verify the impacts of marine activities. The SCI is led by Verra, Silvestrum Climate Associates (external), Blue Marine Foundation (external), the Blue Carbon Initiative (external), and Oceans 2050 (external). Verra serves as the Initiative’s independent standard-setter.

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