• Interest in blue carbon has reached an all-time high, but high-quality projects remain scarce.
  • The Blue Carbon Challenge on UpLink sourced innovative solutions, projects, and enabling tools that can harness the potential of blue carbon markets to support conservation, restoration, and coastal management for people, nature, and climate.
  • The selected 12 UpLink Ocean Top Innovators will receive technical support and valuable connections to scale their interventions.

As businesses aim to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, they must pursue rapid decarbonization. To complement reducing emissions, capturing carbon in natural carbon sinks offers a transitional step to net-zero. Carbon markets enable net-zero commitments to turn into credible and positive actions for people, nature, and climate.

Terrestrial carbon sinks have created carbon credits via forests and grasslands with great impact. Blue carbon – carbon stored in aquatic ecosystems, like mangrove forests and seagrass beds, has the potential to store five times as much carbon per square foot as terrestrial ecosystems but blue carbon markets and projects have been underdeveloped and underfunded. At the same time, there has been a strong increase in corporate demand for this limited supply of verified credits. Building the supply of high-quality blue carbon credits will require projects and supporting tools that put people and nature at the centre of this climate mitigation strategy combined with innovation.

In this vein, Friends of Ocean Action and UpLink and the Mangroves Working Group, launched the Blue Carbon Challenge. Salesforce, Conservation International, Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa, REV Ocean, and GIB Asset Management joined this effort as supporting partners. Together, we sought solutions and tools that can build the supply of strong blue carbon credits. Our focus was to find blue carbon projects that advance the conservation and restoration of coastal and aquatic ecosystems that can enter the carbon market, as well as solutions that support and build trust and transparency in such projects.

Here are the 12 Top Innovators working to increase the supply of high-quality blue carbon projects and credits:

Mikoko Pamoja CBO is a pro-nature and pro-climate mangrove restoration intervention, geared at providing benefits to biodiversity, socio-economic empowerment and mitigating climate change. Annually, 2500 tons of CO2eq are sequestered, generating an income of approximately USD $30,000. Revenue is channelled towards local communities, improving water supplies, sanitation and education, and further ecosystem conservation.

Blue Ventures works with coastal communities at over 120 sites globally. Their team is developing The Google Earth Engine Mangrove Mapping Methodology (GEM) as an accessible, cloud-based tool that supports rapid monitoring of mangrove cover and historical change by non-specialists. This simple (non-coding) interface will remove key barriers to communities developing mangrove blue carbon projects. Validation, GEM will be freely available online to non-profit users.

Friendship Bangladesh, led by Schwab Social Innovator Runa Khan, is working with one of the most climate vulnerable coastal communities of Bangladesh to develop a mangrove plantation and livelihood diversification initiative centred in human value and dignity. Their work has already yielded a 63% increase in incomes and the creation of 75 women-led mangrove forest protection groups.

Distributed Additive Manufacturing (DAM) together with Worldview Impact Foundation aim to deploy a “factory in a shipping container” in The Gambia enabling the conversion of ocean-bound plastic waste into reusable and fully recyclable seedling incubators to increase the survival rate of mangrove plantings.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Latin America, through its programmes in Belize and Mexico, is piloting Blue Carbon Resilience Credits (BCRC) in Belize that will attract buyers wiling to offset carbon emissions with third party-verified metrics of carbon and flood reduction benefits. TNC in Belize will learn from TNC Mexico’s experience incorporating restoration projects into policy.

Reforest’Action together with Yagasu are leveraging Reforest’Action’s unique “crowdplanting” digital platform to involve several villages in the restoration of badly degraded mangrove forests in Sumatra. Since 2017, 770,000 new mangrove seedlings have taken root and their ambition is to plant 1 million more by the end of 2023.

Kelp Forest Foundation is on a mission to independently and transparently prove the ecosystem and carbon sink services of kelp. By supporting cutting-edge ocean science, they are driving forward the science that quantifies the carbon sequestration and biodiversity-building potential of giant kelp.

Distant Imagery Solutions believes that their drones made from simple and scalable 3D-printed components coupled with precision planting can be a game-changer in mangrove restoration. Their technology can drop 2000 germinated seeds, or 500 seedballs, in 10 minutes.

Silvestrum Climate Associates has a team with nearly 95 years of combined experience in carbon science and coastal ecology. Together with Verra and other partners, Silvestrum has developed the Seascape Carbon Initiative (SCI). The goal of the SCI is to explore and unlock the potential for coastal and marine activities that could generate significant and verifiable climate and sustainable development value through a consideration of broader seascapes ecosystems including wild and farmed seaweeds, seabeds, marine protected areas and open ocean carbon drawdown.

The Ocean Foundation, in partnership with the Mexican Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP) and several Mexican universities, is building coastal resilience in Xcalak Reefs National Park. The immediate goal of this multiyear effort in Xcalak (a majority indigenous community) are to enhance coastal resilience through seascape restoration (including mangroves, dunes, seagrasses, and corals). The longer-term objective is to sell blue carbon credits to generate more resilient income streams for the community.

Yayasan IKAMaT has developed Mangrove Tag—an online mangrove mapping platform for monitoring patrols and in-field reporting on the current condition of the mangrove ecosystem with community participation, which collects metadata on species, damage, planting, mangrove tourism, etc.

Solon Capital Partners has established The Africa Conservation Initiative (ACI) to promote the conservation and restoration of the Sherbo River Estuary (SRE) in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Through the sale of carbon credits and development of alternative livelihoods, the ACI will leverage deep ties with indigenous communities to achieve the twin-aims of conservation and development.

This article was originally published by World Ocean Initiative as part of the 9th annual World Ocean Summit Virtual Week.