UNESCO has released the first global scientific assessment of its World Heritage marine sites’ blue carbon ecosystems, highlighting the critical environmental value of these habitats.
While these sites represent less than 1% of the world’s oceans, they host at least 21% of the world’s blue carbon ecosystem area, and 15% of the world’s blue carbon assets.
A press conference to present the findings of the new report, UNESCO Marine World Heritage – Custodians of the Globes Blue Carbon Assets, will take place online on 2 March at 3pm.
During the press conference, lead author, Professor Carlos Duarte of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Fanny Douvere of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage Programme, will explain that Marine World Heritage carbon stores were equivalent to about 10% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, safely keeping billions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
Published at the start of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the assessment also points to ways to preserve these invaluable sites.
Conservation funding for blue carbon ecosystems in marine World Heritage sites, could be boosted through blue carbon strategies, whereby countries would earn carbon credits for demonstrating carbon benefits from the restoration and conservation of damaged ecosystems.
Blue carbon strategies can restore vital ecosystem services and crucially help nations deliver on their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
To date, however, a limited number of countries have incorporated blue carbon strategies into their climate change mitigation policies.
The assessment was developed with data from World Heritage site managers, data published in scientific literature and The Global Carbon Project’s Global Carbon Atlas. It received support from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia), the French Biodiversity Agency and the Principality of Monaco.