India’s Blue Carbon Potential

  • IASbaba
  • December 30, 2022
  • 0
Economics, Governance
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Context: Environmental Experts suggested that India must adopt blue-carbon solutions if it intends to emerge as a global climate leader. India’s commitment to its 2070 net-zero target entails that it must explore all blue carbon interventions to their fullest.

About Blue Carbon:

  • The term “blue carbon” refers to the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.
  • The so-called blue carbon ecosystems – mangroves, tidal and salt marshes, and seagrasses – are highly productive coastal ecosystems that are particularly important for their capacity to store carbon within the plants and in the sediments below.
  • Scientific assessments show that they can sequester two to four times more carbon than terrestrial forests and are thereby considered a key component of nature-based solutions to climate change.

Significance of Blue Carbon in mitigating climate change:

  • Large 7,500+ kilometers-long coastline: India could presently have about 5,000 sq. km of mangroves, 500 sq. km of seagrasses, and around 300 to 1400 sq. km of salt marshes.
    • They cumulatively add up to about 0.5 percent of the country’s total area.
    • Despite their small area, these coastal systems can sequester carbon considerably faster and for millions of years.
  • Mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes can capture carbon dioxide (CO2) up to 20 times greater than any other terrestrial ecosystem, including boreal and tropical forests.
  • Coastal ecosystem’s total carbon sequestration potential has been estimated at around 700 million tons of CO2 about 22 percent of India’s annual carbon emission.
  • Coastal ecosystems provide many climate adaptation benefits:
    • Provide protection from hurricanes and sea-level rise.
    • Prevent shoreline erosion.
    • Regulate coastal water quality.
    • Also offer several ecosystem services such as food security, livelihoods (small-scale fisheries), and biodiversity.

Challenges in utilization of India’s blue carbon potential:

  • The ‘Nature’ journal mentions India as a ‘blue carbon wealth recipient country’ instead of a blue carbon ‘donor’
    • Journal suggests an underutilisation of blue carbon resources in India.
  • Coastal ecosystems erosion due to :
    • Extreme weather events
    • High rate of urbanization
    • Conversion of land into agriculture and aquaculture
  • India’s ‘Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy’ document submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is not focusing on blue carbon opportunity.
  • The absence of a clear pathway for the restoration of blue carbon storage assets can be a major source of carbon emissions in the future.

Suggestive measures for India to harness the blue carbon resource significantly:

  • Establish National Institute for Blue-carbon: The Government of India so far relied only on homogenous literature on blue carbon, often by very few subject matter experts.
    • Need is to create, compile, and formalize these databases towards institutionalizing blue carbon work stream.
    • India must bring about a ‘sea change’ in its understanding of its coastal ecosystems as a strategic carbon sequestration reserve.
  • Need of proper strategy: Currently, lack of focus on blue carbon in India’s low-carbon strategy.
    • India must bring about a ‘sea change’ in its understanding of its coastal ecosystems as a strategic carbon sequestration reserve.
    • India has turned a blind eye toward blue carbon possibilities.
    • India’s previous activities under its afforestation and reforestation initiatives include only minor aspects of the restoration and rejuvenation of coastal ecosystems.
  • Learn from other successful initiatives :
    • India must learn from specialised peer organisations like the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), National Institute of Bioenergy (NIBE)to set up an organization for the blue-carbon sector.
  • India needs human resource skilling activities:
    • Incubate start-ups.
    • Promote innovation clusters that prevent the degradation of coastal ecosystems.
    • Promote initiatives that retain soil nutrition and conserve indigenous biodiversity and also respecting cultures and aspirations of local communities.
  • New institute can collaborate closely with the Indian Meteorological Department, National Institute of Oceanography, National Botanical Research Institute and IIT Bombay’s National Centre of Excellence in Carbon Capture and Utilization to fulfill the necessary conditions needed to catalyse this sector.
    • Need to promote the establishment of requisite standards, codes, and peer-review frameworks for assessing blue carbon solutions.

Need for India International collaboration:

  • Due to its geostrategic location, India can be a leading beacon to synchronize cross-functional and cross-continental efforts in the blue carbon space.
  • India can forge meaningful consensus across bilateral and multilateral forums.
  • India must actively participate in platforms like the Blue Carbon Initiative, International Partnership for Blue Carbon, and various upcoming projects related to nurturing blue forests in the Indian ocean.
  • India’s recent support of the French-led ‘High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction’ and its participation in the ‘One Ocean Summit’ are early steps in the right direction.
  • India can also support Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on their vast blue carbon resources.

Way Forward:

There is a need for National mission on Blue Carbon with the following objectives:

  • Mission can define the phase-wise strategies for value-chain development for acquiring knowledge, manpower, money, and materials that can stimulate the country’s collective efforts.
  • Mission can identify the potential demand generation actions like blue carbon obligations while pushing to put in place the key enablers for domestic and international players in this space.
  • To streamline the technological developments with financial and policy interventions in the blue-carbon sector.
  • Mission can decide national targets for relevant sectors that contribute towards the development of a blue-carbon ecosystem.
  • Mission can be instrumental in setting up a robust carbon market in the country.
  • Mission can launch pilot projects with the private sector/NGOs/Think Tanks while ensuring appropriate monitoring, compliance, and risk-mitigation guidelines.

Source: Observer Research Foundation


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