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Are Blue Carbon Projects Possible without Community Support?

Prioritizing Community Benefits in Blue Carbon Projects

Coastal ecosystems are essential assets to global communities, who often rely on them for their livelihoods. These areas supply people with abundant resources, which sustain food sources and fishing industries—while also protecting people from storms and tsunamis, creating natural barriers that reduce erosion and prevent flooding.

Yet the benefits of these ecosystems extend far beyond their impact on people. Healthy coastal ecosystems are also powerful forces for mitigating climate change through their role in “blue carbon”—which refers to carbon that is captured and stored in marine habitats, such as seagrass meadows, tidal marshes, and mangroves.

The vast potential of blue carbon projects to sequester emissions cannot be underestimated—

with the capacity to store approximately 3% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions

So what is the role of communities in protecting coastal and marine ecosystems? Is blue carbon possible without the direct support of communities, leveraging their skills and local knowledge to secure its impact?

Featured Image & Text

PUR is in the process of developing community benefit activities through sustainable management of mangroves—ensuring that they are seen as a valuable natural resource to be protected for the long-term future

Coastal Communities and Blue Carbon are Naturally Aligned

Interest in blue carbon as a nature-based climate solution is growing worldwide; however, coastal ecosystems are facing more significant threats than ever before. For instance, in Indonesia—home to around 20% of the world’s mangroves—coastal ecosystems are being destroyed due to a range of economic activities including aquaculture (shrimp and fish farming) and coastal development. 

This is why community involvement is so important in blue carbon initiatives. By aligning blue carbon projects with regional priorities, we can achieve prosperous outcomes for local communities through benefit-sharing and economic programs. This emphasizes the role of coastal and marine ecosystems as valuable resources to be protected for the long-term future—instead of over-exploiting nature in the short term, leading to the degradation of essential ecosystems and rapid release of carbon into the atmosphere.

Community involvement is the key to a successful project, and to ensure that mangroves thrive in the long term. —Emilia d’Avack Thomas (Global Marine Ecosystems Lead, PUR)

No Long-Term Impact without Community Involvement

Project developers must be cautious when it comes to securing the longevity of blue carbon initiatives. At the close of a project, there may be legitimate claims for sequestering carbon. But if people in the region remain economically disadvantaged, they may still rely on the overexploitation of natural resources to sustain their livelihoods. This means that carbon totals alone are not strong indicators of long-term outcomes. 

Ultimately, the success of projects and their contribution to mitigating climate change can only be achieved through ongoing community support—driven by long-term behavioral change around ecosystem conservation and sustainable resource management.

Prioritizing Community Benefits within Blue Carbon Projects

To motivate communities to participate in blue carbon projects, companies and organizations can provide relevant incentives that are directly connected to the livelihoods of local families. 

In Indonesia, PUR is in the process of developing social and economic programs associated with mangrove restoration, such as:

  • Sustainable Aquaculture: Generating opportunities for sustainable development of aquaculture, by cultivating resilient ecosystems that support aquatic life and facilitating managed community access to fishing.
  • Women Empowerment Programs: Working with women-led cooperatives on educational programs on entrepreneurship and business for women—which focus on financial management for setting up startup enterprises associated with environmental sustainability.
  • Micro-Businesses from Mangrove Forests: Developing startups that sustainably harvest valuable commodities from mangroves—such as medicines, edible fruits and leaves, and bark that can be used for natural dyes in clothing.
  • Coastal Clean-up: Community events aim to collectively clean up the coastline, helping to prevent the negative impact of plastic and other waste on vital ecosystems.


“Protecting mangroves and restoring damaged ones also helps combat climate change through carbon sequestration as they are some of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet, storing on average 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare in their biomass and underlying soils.”
UN Environment Programme

How PUR Engages Communities to Restore Mangrove Ecosystems

In Southeast Asia, PUR works directly with local communities to restore coastal ecosystems, planting more than 1,000,000 mangroves since 2018. Importantly, this involves awareness-raising activities to highlight the major benefits of mangroves for local ecosystems, fish supply, and the safety of villages against natural disasters. 

Leveraging best practices for local engagement, PUR is in the process of developing community benefit activities through sustainable management of mangroves—ensuring that they are seen as a valuable natural resource to be protected for the long-term future.

Ted Killin

Feb 28, 2024


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