Blue Carbon: The Opportunity of Coastal Sinks for Africa

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Blue Carbon: The Opportunity of Coastal Sinks for Africa

The “abundance of mangrove forests, seagrasses and tidal marsh ecosystems in Africa” should be considered in countries’ pledges to reduce carbon emissions, says a policy briefing from the South African Institute of International Affairs (Chevallier, 2012).

Blue Carbon ecosystems are carbon sinks because they store and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Therefore, Blue Carbon can support the efforts of countries working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate global climate change.

Blue Carbon began to receive significant attention following the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Murray and Vegh, 2012). Therefore, these coastal ecosystems are not included in climate change mitigation mechanisms such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Failure to account for the carbon either emitted or sequestered by Blue Carbon ecosystems means that countries may be underestimating or overestimating their anthropogenic emissions (Chevallier, 2012).

These ecosystems also endow African countries with further benefits, including protection from storm surges and sea level rise, reducing coastal erosion and supporting coastal livelihoods.

Chevallier (2012) suggests how Blue Carbon might by established in the mitigation strategies of African countries. Blue Carbon could potentially be included in voluntary carbon markets (as is being illustrated in Gazi Bay, Kenya), new IPCC guidelines or existing mitigation mechanisms under the UNFCCC.

To establish a stronger case for the incorporation of Blue Carbon into international policies, research relating to the quantification of Blue Carbon and the financial value of coastal ecosystems should be prioritised (Chevallier, 2012).

You can read the briefing here.


Chevallier, R. 2012. Blue Carbon: The Opportunity of Coastal Sinks for Africa. Policy Briefing 59, Governance of Africa’s Resources Programme, SAIIA.

Murray, B.C., and Vegh, T. 2012. Incorporating Blue Carbon as a Mitigation Action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Technical Issues to Address. Report NI R 12-05. Durham, NC: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University. Available at: <> Accessed: 23 April 2013.

Photo credit: Peter Prokosch, Mangroves in the Lamu area, Indian Ocean coast of Kenya [link]

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