From local roots to global branches: making NDCs work for Blue Carbon at three different levels

Lead Research Organisation: Edinburgh Napier University
Department Name: School of Applied Science


Mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass beds are beautiful habitats that support wildlife, protect coastlines and provide livelihoods to millions of people. They are also very powerful natural carbon sinks; for this reason they are known as Blue Carbon habitats. Under the Paris climate change agreement, signatories are obliged to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years. These detail the commitments of the countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Developing nations that have significant areas of Blue Carbon habitats could include the management, conservation, restoration and expansion of these areas as part of their NDCs, because Blue Carbon habitats are able to trap large amounts of carbon which is released as carbon dioxide when they are destroyed. Hence the NDC process offers a new opportunity to work towards the global conservation and sustainable management of Blue Carbon habitats, for the benefit of the people and wildlife who rely on them and for the climate.

Incorporating Blue Carbon into NDCs may be difficult, however, and could bring problems to existing conservation projects. It is a technical process relying on expertise not common in developing countries. If governments decide to include all their Blue Carbon habitats, that may interfere with projects already running successfully, diverting funds from local people to central bureaucracies. Hence incorporating Blue Carbon into NDCs offers a major opportunity but has technical and resource challenges as well as risks of inappropriate top-down control.

The local roots and global branches project team brings unique expertise in Blue Carbon ecology, management and policy at local, national and international levels. We include experts who have developed world leading local mangrove conservation projects, who have helped changed national practice and who have studied the international policy agenda and identified global opportunities. We will apply this expertise to achieve the following objectives:

1) To research, document and disseminate best practice for community based projects in Blue Carbon
habitats, working with a new project in Kenya that will act as a living model for local implementation
of NDCs.
2) To work with the Government of Kenya in incorporating Blue Carbon into their NDCs in ways that
are sensitive to local needs and opportunities, as a case study for other nations.
3) To develop and disseminate best practice guidelines for other developing nations, and for the
developers and supporters of local conservation projects, in NDCs and Blue Carbon to encourage
good co-ordination and support between local, national and international practice and policy.

Our work will have direct impact on the local community in Kenya (where our focal project is based) and the Kenyan government and people (since we aim to directly assist them in preparation of their NDCs). It will also have broader, indirect impact by acting as a model for other developing countries and we will actively disseminate lessons learned at appropriate international fora. Our project partners are:
Kenya Forest Service - the lead Kenyan agency with responsibility for mangrove conservation.
Save Our Mangroves Now! - an international campaign led by NGOs including World Wildlife Fund and IUCN aiming to achieve global mangrove conservation.
Plan Vivo Foundation - charity specializing in supporting community based forest conservation projects.

In addition we have stakeholders including the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, IUCN, the Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services, Edinburgh Napier University and the National University of Singapore.

Keywords: Blue Carbon, climate change, mangroves, policy, community benefit, Kenya, Nationally Determined Contributions

Planned Impact

We expect benefits and outcomes on local, national and global scales. Progressing roughly in order of these scales, benefits will include:

1) Assistance with the Vanga Blue Forest carbon offsetting project, to be launched in Dec 2018/Jan 2019, in aligning from the start with appropriate national and international policy agendas and opportunities, which will safeguard it from expropriation in the future and establish it as an international exemplar. Vanga Blue Forest aims to benefit up to 8000 local people using a payments for ecosystem services model based on the successful sister project, Mikoko Pamoja. Hence outcomes include project policy and practice aligned with national policy and materials showing how Vanga Blue Forest exemplifies good practice.
2) Assistance with the Kenyan NDC process. We will facilitate discussion and learning among the civil servants responsible for the Kenyan NDCs, helping them to include Blue Carbon where appropriate in ways that benefit the country and the affected communities. This will assist with their mandatory duties but also show Kenya is acting as an example for others. Outputs will include the appropriate parts of the NDCs themselves along with materials describing these to others.
3) Assisting the developers, co-ordinators and supporters of community based forest and Blue Carbon projects that use payments for ecosystem services and account for carbon. This will most immediately be through project partner Plan Vivo and the projects on their portfolio, but our information will be made publicly available and will be of interest to the hundreds of projects in the voluntary sector. The NDC process raises the same opportunities and threats for these projects as it does for Vanga Blue Forest and the Kenyan work, so there is a large audience for information that will help them deal with this.
4) Assistance for other developing nations in incorporating Blue Carbon into NDCs. Many developing nations have much more extensive blue carbon resources than Kenya - for example Nigeria, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Indonesia - and have major opportunities to include these in their NDC processes. Our policy work will help identify those countries with the best opportunities and we will ensure we target our advice, briefings and materials at them, via our extensive contacts and networks and through formal international meetings and processes such as COP
5) Assistance for the international climate policy community, including NGOs, governments and business, at the UNFCCC and especially beyond, to ensure national, cross-ministerial information sharing and capacity-building and a clear understanding of the potential for Blue Carbon and of the ways in which it may be accounted for and included.


10 25 50
Description The work is on-going, and so our findings are not complete. However we have already achieved two important outcomes/findings:
1) we have identified ways in which the Kenyan government can include blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves and seagrass) into their policy documents for national and international climate change commitments
2) we have reviewed the evidence on why buyers in the voluntary carbon market choose to purchase blue carbon credits. We find that they are well informed and engaged with climate change science and policy. There is no evidence that these purchasers are using carbon offsetting as a way of avoiding emissions reductions.
Exploitation Route we will be publishing our results on how blue carbon can be incorporated into NDCs; this will be relevant for dozens of countries with significant blue carbon habitats
Sectors Environment

Description One major objective of this work was to help Kenyan policy makers and managers understand the potential for blue carbon to contribute to their national climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. We were able to work closely with the team responsible for the revision of the Kenyan NDC document and as a result there were some 8 different areas in that document that were altered or added concerning ocean science and blue carbon
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description input to 2020 Kenyan Nationally Determined Contributions
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact we provided expert advice to the Kenyan government on the preparation of their revised NDCs in 2020. Specifically we were able to influence the inclusion of Blue Carbon opportunities, through mangrove and seagrass conservation, into both adaptation and mitigation. Including both conditional and non-conditional NDCs the total estimated economic impact of this over the next ten years is USD 0.8 billion.
Description participation in The Economists World Ocean Summit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I was invited to join a panel to discuss involvement of local communities in blue carbon and ocean conservation. This is a very large, virtual, global summit with prestigious speakers from around the world. So the audience is certainly in the 100s. Not sure of outcomes yet but it only happened last month
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020