Our Mikoko Pamoja and Vanga Blue Forest projects have delivered climate, biodiversity and community benefits to two coastal communities on the Kenyan coast. They have demonstrated at a small, ’boutique’ scale how climate action can not only tackle the threat of the climate emergency, but how it can do so whilst delivering benefits to local people, engaging local people in environmental governance and demonstrating how local livelihoods can be secured whilst managing the use of natural resources.
Whilst these projects deliver community benefits locally and make a contribution to fighting the climate crisis, much larger-scale action is needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5-2°C in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
This is where Nationally-Determined Contributions, or NDCs, come in. They are commitments made every 5 years by nations who are signatory to the Paris Agreement to contribute to the global effort to limit temperature rise. In the case of blue carbon ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass and saltmarsh, these can include commitments to protect and restore these carbon-rich habitats to prevent the loss of, and encourage further sequestration of, atmospheric carbon.
But when we scale blue carbon conservation like this, how do we ensure that community livelihoods are not overlooked in favour of carbon benefit? It is easy to make commitments on paper to halt the loss of these ecosystems, but how can we implement this in a way that involves local people and takes account of their needs, particularly when coastal communities rely on natural resources like timber for income and sustenance?
Our team have been part of an international research team investigating these questions and making recommendations for Kenya, and other nations, to commit to and implement socially-just blue carbon conservation and restoration.
As part of this work, we worked alongside the team developing Kenya’s 2020 NDC submission to ensure that blue carbon ecosystems were not only included in the submission, but included in a way which puts the needs of coastal communities at the heart of their management. More detail about how we achieved this can be found here. Now that Kenya’s 2020 NDC submission is finalised, we have produced a policy brief for Kenyan coastal and marine stakeholders with an interest in blue carbon management, summarising the blue carbon element of the NDC submission and what this will mean for government agencies, public bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders. This policy brief can be downloaded here.
National-level conservation and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems will not come without challenges. However by learning from projects such as Mikoko Pamoja, Vanga Blue Forest and other community-led initiatives, and by working together across government, community groups, research institutions and NGOs to understand and promote best practice, we can move towards a more sustainable future in which the needs of people are secured alongside ambitious climate action.