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NOAA’s Coastal Blue Carbon Efforts

NOAA is working to advance awareness of coastal blue carbon in several key ways:

  • Exploring how to incorporate carbon services into existing domestic and international policies, programs, and activities. Considering carbon services along with other ecosystem services could provide additional incentives for conservation and disincentives for habitat degradation.  NOAA is also collaborating with other agencies to share expertise and explore opportunities to coordinate on policy and science activities.
  • Helping to fill the science gaps in our understanding of the distribution, magnitude, and rate of coastal habitat carbon services (storage, sequestration, and emissions) to more effectively and accurately account for the carbon services these habitats provide.
  • Providing support for ongoing efforts to develop protocols for including coastal carbon services in national greenhouse gas inventories and carbon markets both within the U.S. and internationally. Markets could incentivize and produce increased private investment (new revenue streams) in coastal habitat conservation, while greenhouse gas inventories are essential for emissions reduction efforts.

These actions support two complementary pathways for using the carbon service value of coastal habitats to advance habitat conservation.

1) The first pathway incorporates carbon services into federal policies and programs governing coastal habitats so that carbon services are valued and considered in actions that affect these habitats (depicted in the top half of the diagram below). For example, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires consideration of impacts on ecosystem services in federal actions, but has not explicitly recognized carbon services as an ecosystem service to date.

2) The second pathway is to support the development of voluntary markets for coastal carbon, (similar to markets that currently exist for forest carbon; depicted in the bottom half of the diagram below). These markets will provide a mechanism for the private sector to invest in carbon credits (representing specific amounts of carbon sequestration protection or restoration in coastal habitats), thereby directing resources to the conservation of these habitats.

(Please click on the image to enlarge)

Coastal Blue Carbon Opportunities for Conservation: Two Pathways