Climate and Nature

The Mangrove Breakthrough: 4 steps we must take to safeguard people, nature and the planet

Mangroves can play a vital role in meeting global climate commitments.

Mangroves can play a vital role in meeting global climate commitments. Image: Unsplash/Timothy K

Carlos Correa
Senior Fellow, Conservation International, Ambassador, Mangroves Breakthrough
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • Mangrove forests can play a key role in meeting global climate targets by sequestering carbon, reducing flood risk and protecting water quality.
  • While they only cover 0.7% of the world's tropical forest area, mangrove destruction may account for 10% of emissions linked to deforestation.
  • The Mangrove Breakthrough will help unlock the philanthropic, public and private financing that is vital to fulfilling the targets of the Paris Agreement and Global Biodiversity Framework.

Mangrove forests are critical for sequestering carbon, reducing flood risk, and protecting water quality for coastal communities. They form important wetland ecosystems with unique plants, bacteria, fungi, microalgae, invertebrates, birds and mammals.

Blue carbon refers to the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses. These types of coastal wetlands sequester carbon at a rate that is roughly 10 times that of mature tropical forests, and mangrove forests alone store an estimated 12 billion metric tons of carbon globally, roughly one third of global annual emissions in 2021.

The carbon plus qualities of mangrove forests make their protection and restoration critical to reaching the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement. Although they only cover 0.7% of the world's tropical forest area, mangrove deforestation is estimated to be responsible for up to 10% of total emissions linked to deforestation.

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According to The State of the World's Mangroves 2022, net losses of mangrove forest have been estimated at 5,245 square kilometres, although the rate has slowed considerably over the last decade to just 66 square kilometres, or 0.04% of all mangroves per year.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of total mangrove loss can be directly attributed to human activity, while other causes such as shoreline erosion and extreme weather events account for the remaining 38%.

It is in both our environmental and economic interests to protect and restore degraded mangrove forests. The economic benefits of restoring degraded coastal ecosystems for coastal communities has been estimated to be between $27-37 billion per year.

In addition, the loss of remaining mangrove ecosystems would lead to an increase in flood damages by an estimated 16% and $82 billion.

Although the economic case is clear, raising the funds necessary to protect mangrove ecosystems remains a formidable task. To restore these forests to their 1980 levels by 2050, the Paulson Institute estimates at least $0.3–1.6 billion is needed per year.

While this is just a fraction of the $700 billion annual biodiversity financing gap, mobilizing the necessary public, private and philanthropic capital necessary to build a nature positive world remains one of the greatest challenges we face as a society.

Action to protect and restore mangroves

To address this, the Mangrove Breakthrough was launched at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in collaboration with the Global Mangrove Alliance and the UN Climate High-Level Champions. This groundbreaking initiative seeks to unlock $4 billion and protect 15 million hectares globally by 2030.

The Mangrove Breakthrough brings together governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and financiers to work collectively on four goals:

1. Reduce net mangrove losses driven by direct human actions to zero

Coastal development, aquaculture expansion and over-harvesting have caused mangrove forest cover to drop by 30-50% over the last half century. Although recent trends show mangrove loss slowing, we must accelerate collective action to bring this to zero.

2. Restore mangroves to cover at least half of all recent loss

Mangrove restoration requires an integrated nature-based approach to help mitigate climate change and expand coastal resiliency. While not all mangrove loss can be reversed, it is estimated that a total of 818,300 hectares of mangrove forest lost from 1996 to 2020 can be restored. The Mangrove Breakthrough aims to restore half of these losses totalling 409,150 hectares by 2030 (~51,000 hectares per year).

3. Ensure long-term protection is increased from 40% to 80% of remaining mangroves

While 41% of the world's mangroves lie in protected areas, the Mangrove Breakthrough seeks to protect an additional 6,100,000 hectares. This could include both traditional protected areas, as well as more integrative approaches to managing Indigenous lands and areas of sustainable use that protect mangroves from clear-felling and conversion.

4. Ensure sustainable finance to existing mangrove extent

The Mangrove Breakthrough will leverage capital from public, private and philanthropic sources to maintain and sustain the existing coverage of 14.7 million acres. Yearly maintenance costs to protect mangrove ecosystems have been estimated at approximately $25 per hectare.

To achieve these four goals an estimated $4.07 billion is needed through 2030, with a yearly investment of $630 million. Meeting these goals could sequester as much as 43.5 million tonnes of CO2 in mangrove biomass and an additional 189 million tons of CO2 in the soil.

The recently released Mangrove Breakthrough Financial Roadmap provides a path to achieve this level of finance, which will require mobilizing diverse and sequenced sources of capital. We welcome financial institutions, corporate partners and experts to work with us on implementing this roadmap.

Momentum for the Mangrove Breakthrough is growing ahead of COP28, with this year's host, the United Arab Emirates, endorsing the Mangrove Breakthrough during Climate Week. A high-level mangroves ministerial at COP28 will focus on scaling up finance, policy and technology efforts to protect and restore mangrove ecosystems.

Mangrove protection and restoration have been a focal point for the country that has pledged to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030 at COP26 and launched the Mangrove Alliance for Climate in partnership with Egypt at COP27.

COP28 will provide a valuable opportunity to amplify the Mangrove Breakthrough’s goals and place nature at the very heart of the climate agenda

Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High Level Champion for COP28

Key to meeting the goals of the Mangrove Breakthrough will be strengthening strategic partnerships between governments, public and private financial institutions, NGOs and philanthropies behind the initiative.

The World Economic Forum looks forward to partnering with the Mangrove Breakthrough through support from the Giving to Amplify Earth Action, 1t.org and the Blue Carbon Action Partnership.

Have you read?

COP28 presents a critical moment for transforming the Mangrove Breakthrough from pledge to action as the clock is ticking to meet the 2030 targets. Dubai will present an opportunity to galvanize public-private-philanthropic partnerships to accelerate action on the four goals of the Mangrove Breakthrough.

With this year's focus turning to the first-ever global stocktake, talks advancing on a new climate finance goal, and the creation of a loss and damage fund, there should be a focus on scaling up finance for climate and nature through innovative mechanisms that favour an all-hands-on-deck approach.

The $4 billion needed to complete the goals of the Mangrove Breakthrough will be foundational to fulfilling the targets of the Paris Agreement and Global Biodiversity Framework.

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