Event ReportsPublished on Dec 12, 2023
Boosting Sustainable Finance on Mangrove Conservation and Blue Carbon in the Indo-Pacific

Climate change stands as a pressing global development challenge with far-reaching consequences globally. Amid this context, mangroves which form an indispensable coastal ecosystem, face escalating pressures due to the changing climate. Mangroves play a crucial role in upholding biodiversity, supporting ecosystem functionality, and sustaining local livelihoods in the long run. These habitats also make vital contributions to climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Holding most of the world’s mangroves, the Indo-Pacific faces serious risks of natural disasters, and the long-term sustainability of coastal communities and valuable ecosystems.

Mangroves, predominantly located in coastal areas, absorb and store carbon dioxide, constituting what is known as blue carbon. This carbon sequestration by mangroves, along with other coastal ecosystems like seagrasses and salt marshes, plays a pivotal role in mitigating climate change. Therefore, there is an increasing need for financial support and investment in blue carbon initiatives, which are essential to safeguard mangroves, preserving their vital role in sequestering carbon and maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Recognising the urgency of addressing this critical intersection, the Sustainable Finance in the Indo-Pacific (SUFIP) Development Network (DN) orchestrated a one-day hybrid workshop bringing together policymakers, development practitioners, researchers, development finance institutions (DFIs), and relevant stakeholders from this region. The workshop also designed to deeply explore the intricate relationship between climate change and mangroves, underscoring their pivotal capacity as blue carbon reservoirs.

As a joint collaborative effort between the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the SUFIP network seeks to establish cooperation and knowledge-sharing for strengthening collaboration and build coalitions on the development agenda in the region, with a focus on the Indo-French strategic partnership.

The workshop sought the urgent need to identify the intensifying impacts of climate change on mangrove ecosystems and the resultant gap in financing for its sustainable development. It highlighted the significance of mangroves as crucial blue carbon reservoirs, emphasizing their contribution to global carbon mitigation efforts. The event also focused on evaluating the multi-dimensional ecosystem services provided by mangroves, such as coastal protection, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and livelihood support. Further, it also emphasized the need to devise alternative modes of financing by blending the private sector resources along with the public development banks (PDBs).

The workshop commenced with welcome remarks by Dr Nilanjan Ghosh, Director, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Kolkata and Camille Severac, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Deputy Country Director, India. The Special Address delivered by Mr Didier Talpain, Consul General of France in Kolkata, H.E. Mr Andalib Elias, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata and Shri Prabhat Kumar Mishra, IAS, Principal Secretary, Environment, Govt of West Bengal, India reiterated that climate change is not solely an environmental problem but also a developmental challenge.

Focussing on the key themes of biodiversity, human society and climate resilience, Panel 1, moderated by Dr Nilanjan Ghosh, saw Dr Debal Ray, Chief Wildlife Warden, Govt of West Bengal, underscore the pivotal role of mangroves as ecosystem pillars. He also emphasized their significance in biodiversity preservation and community support. Further, Dr Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Distinguished Fellow, ORF asserted the pivotal role of community-driven adaptation strategies and linking them amicably with government initiatives. Mahjabeen Khaled, Former Member of Parliament, Awami League, Bangladesh, pertinently stressed the necessity of political will, regional and global collaboration to effectively address challenges in mangrove conservation in the Sundarbans.

This was followed by Panel 2 on blue carbon and mangrove ecosystem moderated by Dr Anamitra Anurag Danda, Senior Visiting Fellow, ORF. Here, Dr Punyasloke Bhadury from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata, India, emphasized the carbon sequestration potential of mangroves, highlighting their significant contribution to global carbon mitigation efforts. Dr Malshini Senaratne, University of Seychelles underlined the importance of devising innovative financing mechanisms to invest in a blue economy. Citing the example of SeyCCAT- an initiative by Seychelles towards nurturing and promoting the country’s blue economy—Dr Senaratne highlighted the need to build social resilience of the community towards climate change. Seychelles is also known for conceiving the sovereign blue bond- an innovative financial instrument to raise funding from capital market investors for projects that support sustainable use of ocean resources. Prof Saudamini Das, Institute of Economic Growth, shared interesting bits from her field research pertaining to the crucial role of mangroves in local communities' climate adaptation strategies. Despite various policy initiatives and efforts to raise awareness, there exists a dearth of active government response, particularly in the states of Orissa and West Bengal.

The third panel on devising integrated coastal management strategies was moderated by Ms Aparna Roy, Fellow, ORF. Panellist Prof Sugata Hazra, Jadavpur University emphasised strategies to bolster coastal resilience and discussed essential adaptation measures for protecting vulnerable coastal areas. Unaisi Malani, WWF Pacific highlighted the economic viability of mangrove conservation, demonstrating how conservation efforts can align with economic development while preserving ecosystems. Dr Tainã Loureiro, Research Fellow, Sustainable Development Reform Hub, Australia stressed the significance of international collaboration in crafting integrated coastal management strategies, focusing on the exchange of knowledge and resources among nations. Prof Mala Damayanthi Amarasinghe, University of Sri Lanka emphasised on the crucial role of ocean accounting for a sustainable blue economy.

Panel 4 on financing for partnerships, collaborations and communities was moderated by Akshita Sharma, Biodiversity Portfolio Manager, AFD. Here, Tapas Paul, World Bank stressed on the critical role of development finance in supporting mangrove conservation projects, exploring investment opportunities, and sustainable financial mechanisms. Shri Prabhat Kumar Mishra, IAS looked at the significance of local engagement and community-driven initiatives, showcasing successful climate adaption strategies as well as potential partnerships enhancing ecosystem resilience. Promit Mookherjee, Associate Fellow, ORF discussed the necessity of robust policy frameworks and regulatory mechanisms to ensure sustainable financing for mangrove conservation.

Across sessions, a series of interesting policy recommendations emerged. Some of these include the need to build a strong narrative on a sustainable blue economy, paradigm shifts in the process of managing the coasts, promoting smart innovative financing mechanisms for the restoration of natural habitats, funding or supporting developed countries for ocean climate adaptation, boosting community resilience etc. As a call for action, the workshop urged experts, development practitioners and other relevant stakeholders to join the SUFIP DN, thus bolstering the conversation on building sustainable development finance in the long run for the region.

The report is prepared by Sharon Sarah Thawaney, Executive Assistant to the Director (Kolkata), ORF.

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