Ocean seen playing key role in carbon capture

THE potential for carbon capture in the ocean can protect Southeast Asia’s coastlines and mitigate environmental damage, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

“As countries and companies become more conscious of their carbon footprints while striving to achieve net-zero, some have started to look to the ocean — particularly its coastal areas,” the ADB said in a blog. 

“These areas are seen as an untapped source of ‘blue carbon,’ which refers to the carbon captured and stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrass meadows,” it added.

The ocean has absorbed about 30% of human-produced planet-warming emissions since the 1980s, according to the ADB.

The ADB said that Asia could benefit from the “rush for blue carbon.”

Southeast Asia is among the most financially viable regions for mangrove blue carbon projects, it said, citing a study.

“Research has shown that the carbon stored in mangroves or seagrass meadows can be up to three times more than in tropical rainforests, allowing for more credits to be sold per unit area. Blue carbon credits can also command higher prices due to their positive impact on coastal fisheries and job creation for local communities,” it added.

“Wetlands are among the world’s most endangered habitats due to land clearance, rising sea levels, and pollution,” it said.

However, it also cited the challenges to blue carbon, such as lack of quantifiable data.

“A significant obstacle is the difficulty in quantifying the carbon that some blue carbon habitats can keep out of the atmosphere. For example, it is unclear how underwater carbon capture from seaweed or seagrass can reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide,” the ADB said. 

“The absence of a mechanism to accurately quantify carbon in an ecosystem means developers do not receive reliable estimates of their financial returns. Coupled with other political and technical concerns, such as overlapping land tenure rights and the transboundary nature of some blue carbon ecosystems, these projects are challenging to scale up,” it added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson