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Home » PT 3 – Ulfath Ibrahim – working with Blue carbon ecosystems in the Maldives to remove carbon

PT 3 – Ulfath Ibrahim – working with Blue carbon ecosystems in the Maldives to remove carbon

Nick Breeze

Nick Breeze

Climate journalist and host of the ClimateGenn podcast.

I come from the Maldives, so 99% of the Maldivian territory is ocean. And like many Island communities, we have a very strong connection with our ocean. The Maldives already experience the effects of the climate crisis. It is not by choice that we are positioned at the frontlines of this battle. However, we are determined to fight it and that is why in that spirit, the Maldivian government has set an ambitious target to reach net zero by 2030, on the condition that we can achieve international support from our partners.

Ulfath Ibrahim, Assistant Director at the Special Envoy Office for Climate Change of the Maldives

The ocean is oftentimes only thought of as a victim of the climate crisis. But for the Maldives, we have nowhere else but the ocean to look for solutions. And so for us, the ocean is full of solutions. Ocean habitats of the Maldives include mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds that provide cost-effective and less risky nature-based solutions with win-win benefits of mitigation and adaptation. These blue carbon ecosystems are some of the world’s most efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide and long-term carbon sinks. 

It was in this background that I did my postgraduate research to determine the potential of Maldives’ blue carbon ecosystems, including the seagrass beds and mangroves. I used global datasets and my findings suggest that there’s a realistic and strong possibility that the carbon sequestration potential of our mangroves and seagrasses could in total offset national emissions. This presents us with a very unique opportunity at a very pivotal time as we explore climate mitigation strategies to achieve our carbon neutrality pledge. These seagrasses and mangroves should not only be thought of as carbon sinks, but they also provide valuable ecosystem services and extensive core benefits to communities. They provide coastal protection, improve water quality, and act as nurseries for crucial biodiversity. All of these things help coastal communities like us, enhance our national economies. The next steps for the Maldives will be to explore the possibility of including these ecosystems in our NDCs. In order to do this, we have multiple steps that we have to get to. We need to reduce some of the scientific uncertainty by quantifying the exact carbon content and the rate of accumulation within these mangroves and seagrasses. 

Currently, the global supply of certified blue carbon credits is far outpaced by increasing demand. Some key factors that I think are high-quality blue carbon development relate to ecosystem complexity, knowledge gaps, and unique funding needs. The research gap has now closed considerably. Robust metal methodologies now exist, but must still be socialized and adopted. 

The Maldivian government is now in the process of formulating our marine spatial plan, which allows for a more strategic and sustainable use of our common natural resources. We are also designating one island, one coral reef, and one mangrove in each of our atolls as a protected area, thereby establishing our 70 protected areas in our national waters. 

I also think it is very crucial to bring the private sector into this domain. Some projects in the Maldives are looking at facilitating tourism, businesses knowledge of blue carbon and create clear pathways for protection, management and restoration of these habitats. For too long ocean habitats have been largely absent from the UNFCCC system. But the tide is turning and I hope that blue carbon is given the recognition it deserves and that countries consider blue carbon ecosystems as a key part of their mitigation actions. 

I want to end on note that we have to be cautious with how we frame this narrative of blue carbon as a solution for climate action. The mitigation potential of blue carbon ecosystems should be seen as supplementary to the immediate and urgent requirement to reduce emissions within this decade to stay at the 1.5 C target. Thank you for your attention.

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