What are blue carbon credits and can they help battle the climate crisis?

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Experts say this form of carbon offsetting could strengthen the fight against climate change, but must be used responsibly.

You may have heard that trees are the lungs of the earth – and they’re not wrong.

Forests play a key role in our fight against the climate crisis, as they are able to absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen through photosynthesis.

But while our green spaces are precious, have we neglected another resource?

Enter: blue carbon.

When we use this term, we are referring to carbon captured by coastal and marine ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses.

Just like trees on earth, these so-called “blue forests” can absorb and store carbon, but they do so at a much faster rate.

Seagrasses can capture this element up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests, and although they cover less than 0.1% of our oceans, vegetation accounts for 10 to 18% of global marine carbon storage.

The bad news is that we are losing blue carbon systems at an alarming rate.

Up to 67% of mangroves, at least 35% of tidal marshes and around 29% of seagrass beds have already disappeared due to a variety of factors such as coastal development, fishing, pollution, climate and natural disasters.

That said, there is a way to support more conservation projects.

Similar to standard carbon offsetting, companies are able to invest in blue carbon ecosystems in exchange for credits, and this transaction theoretically allows them to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

The blue carbon market has yet to take off in the EU, but following the expansion of the trade in nations such as Australia, Indonesia and Kenya, some experts predict a European boom.

However, many commentators remain cautious.

They argue that carbon offsetting allows companies to offload responsibility for reducing harmful emissions to third parties.

They also claim that it is impossible to calculate exactly how much carbon will be stored by aquatic plants in the long term, undermining the central premise of the credit system.

To learn more about the potential of blue carbon, as well as credit market risks, watch our video above.

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