EDF Releases Reports on Blue Carbon Science and Ocean-Based Pathways for Climate Mitigation

The reports highlight opportunities to restore natural pathways and spur market growth

November 11, 2022
Maddie Southard, (212) 616-1338, msouthard@edf.org


(WASHINGTON – Nov. 11, 2022) Three new reports based on work supported by the Bezos Earth Fund were released today by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), highlighting the potential of different blue carbon interventions to help in the fight against climate change and act as natural climate solutions (NCS), some of which may be marketable with further research and economic and policy action. This important release comes as countries across the world have come together at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to act towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals as agreed under the Paris Agreement and the Convention.

Blue carbon is the carbon that is captured and stored naturally in various parts of the world's ocean and coastal ecosystems, including both natural habitats and the species that live within them. The oceans serve the planet as a massive natural carbon sink, but because of climate change, overfishing and other pressures, we have degraded the natural pathways through which oceans capture and store carbon. EDF scientists have been studying pathways that could restore and enhance the ability of natural systems to store blue carbon. Many of these blue carbon NCS could bolster biodiversity, improve human livelihoods and offer other important benefits while building thriving ocean ecosystems. These latest reports strengthen our understanding of which blue carbon NCS hold the most promise, for example preserving the functioning of key biota in the open ocean for their role in carbon sequestration, and avenues for research and policy development across the suite of NCS. Ongoing work is exploring the various costs and risks associated with these NCS as well as political, cultural and ethical constraints.

“These latest Blue Carbon reports by EDF do a great job pulling together our current understanding of carbon in ocean ecosystems," said Dr. Andrew Pershing, Director of Climate Science at Climate Central. “They provide a science-based evaluation of the strengths and limitations of different ideas for preserving or increasing carbon dioxide stored in the ocean." 

The three blue carbon reports highlight the state of the science on nearshore blue carbon pathways, which have historically received the most attention, as well as emerging NCS that have been proposed for the open ocean and those involving seaweed aquaculture. The ultimate objective of this work, based on key findings from a series of expert workshops EDF conducted over the past year, is to identify scalable interventions that could preserve or magnify NCS pathways and that are ready to implement – i.e., interventions that are likely to result in durable carbon sequestration via a NCS pathway, are also likely to generate multiple ecological and socio-economic benefits with minimal risk of adverse impacts.

“With the urgency of compounded biodiversity and climate crises, it would be tempting to rush straight into on-the-ground blue carbon initiatives and projects,” said Dr. Rebecca Gruby, Associate Professor at Colorado State University. “EDF’s up-front investment in a thoughtful planning process can help guide the field toward more effective and equitable blue carbon work globally.” 

Overall, the work has highlighted several important avenues for further research and policy engagement to help identify blue carbon NCS that hold the most promise for improving outcomes for people and nature.

“With a clearer picture of the suite of benefits these blue carbon NCS can offer, as well as any costs and risks associated with them, we can better understand where and how we advance research and policies to ensure that blue carbon pathways offer credible solutions to the climate crisis, including through carbon markets,” said Dr. Kristin Kleisner, Senior Director for Ocean Science at EDF.


Read the reports:

Visit edf.org/issues/blue-carbon to learn more.

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One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund