Framework launched to guide the development and purchasing of high-quality blue carbon projects and credits

By Conservation International | November 16, 2022

A new set of principles to build investable, high-quality blue carbon projects to ensure positive outcomes for people, nature and climate, has been launched at COP27 by Conservation International, along with Salesforce and a global coalition of ocean leaders.

The “High-Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance” is a first-of-a-kind blue carbon framework to guide the development and purchasing of high-quality blue carbon projects and credits.

The High-Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance seeks to provide a consistent and accepted framework for blue carbon credits for credit purchasers, investors, suppliers and project developers. This shared vision for quality can serve a foundational role in building confidence and momentum around blue carbon project development and investments.

The five principles, each of equal importance, are:

  • Safeguard nature
  • Empower people
  • Employ the best information and carbon accounting principles
  • Operate contextually and locally
  • Mobilize high integrity capital

High-quality, nature-based carbon credits are a powerful tool for driving climate mitigation and resilience through the conservation and restoration of nature. As organizations race to achieve their net zero commitments, the global voluntary carbon market is estimated to grow to US$50 billion by 2030.

Blue carbon – the carbon captured and sequestered by marine ecosystems – is experiencing a particularly rapid increase in demand. The Principles and Guidance seeks to channel this demand toward optimizing outcomes for people, nature and climate in a transparent and equitable way.

“Because we’re seeing such high demand for blue carbon credits, it’s important that we maintain their quality as the market expands,” said Dr. Jennifer Howard, Vice President of the Blue Carbon Program at Conservation International’s Center for Natural Climate Solutions. “We want to ensure that every blue carbon credit is high quality, and these principles will help us get there. They’re designed to guide us – on both the developer and buyer ends of the transaction – in finding the credits that best serve the nature and people they’re intended to support.”

In 2021, Dr. Howard led Conservation International in the rollout of blue carbon credits from a mangrove forest in Cispatá, Colombia that became the world’s first mangrove site to have its carbon fully quantified and subsequently enter the blue carbon market for sale. This year, the project reported that 100% of all available blue carbon credits had been sold. More credits are expected to be available in 2023.

“We set out to define a vision for high-quality blue carbon across all aspects of a project over its lifetime. We recognize that it’s unlikely that any given project will meet every element of the guidance in full tomorrow. Our intent is not to set a bar that is impossible to achieve and therefore exclusionary, but rather to provide guidance and perhaps more importantly a pathway for delivering the best possible outcomes,” said Dr. Howard.

The principles were derived through a global consultative process, consolidating existing knowledge and best practices to provide a shared vision for achieving high-quality blue carbon projects and credits for all stakeholders.

“This framework is one contribution to the growing dialogue around high-quality blue carbon,” said Dr. Whitney Johnston, Salesforce Director of Ocean Sustainability.  “We hope these principles will serve as a foundation for actions that ensure equity, accountability, transparency, and sustainability in the blue carbon space.”

“People must be at the center of our nature and climate strategies. It’s imperative that we open pathways for local and indigenous communities to equitably participate in and benefit from blue carbon projects, while we work to reverse nature loss and combat climate change.” Dr. Johnston added.

The development of the framework was driven by a collaborative effort between Salesforce, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA), Friends of Ocean Action/Ocean Action Agenda at the World Economic Forum, and the Meridian Institute.

Learn more about Conservation International’s work on blue carbon:

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