When implemented thoughtfully, nature-based climate-action projects support biodiversity and connect communities, governments and other organizations to make long-lasting, impactful changes that no one group could do alone.
The critical role of Indonesia’s mangroves in the fight against climate change
Mangroves can sequester three to five times more carbon than tropical forests and, if left undisturbed, can store and lock carbon in sediment for hundreds to thousands of years. Beyond representing a valuable tool for carbon sequestration, mangrove forests are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world and provide critical ecosystem services such as coastline protection from storm surge, stabilization against coastal erosion, and habitat for a diverse range of native flora and fauna.
Home to over 20 percent of the world's mangroves, Indonesia's vast coastline has faced unprecedented degradation in the last three decades. During this time, roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s mangroves have been lost due to unsustainable forms of shrimp and fish aquaculture — leaving many former shrimp ponds abandoned and local communities with little access to economic opportunities. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami also caused substantial mangrove destruction in the Aceh region.
Collaborating on sustainability with communities
ClimeCo, a sustainability solutions provider and project developer, is currently funding a locally led mangrove-reforestation project in Indonesia in close partnership with YAKOPI (Yayasan Konservasi Persisir Indonesia) — an Indonesia-based non-governmental organization responsible for planting and community engagement, and PUR Projet — an on-the-ground project developer providing critical oversight and guidance.
The YAKOPI mangrove project encompasses 196 villages and approximately 1,100 hectares in the Aceh and North Sumatra regions, providing investment in local socio-economic development — including gender-equitable employment and ecotourism. Additionally, it promotes the implementation of sustainable, locally run pilot fisheries called silvofisheries — a form of sustainable aquaculture that integrates planting, maintenance and protection of mangrove forests in aquaculture ponds.
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ClimeCo relies heavily on its partners’ local knowledge to identify best practices and to implement proper planting techniques, such as recognizing and utilizing healthy and vigorous native saplings known as propagules.
Community members collect the propagules and then return them to the villages, where they’ve built large nurseries containing as many as 10,000 propagules. When these have grown large enough to survive in the ground, the villagers transport them to the reforestation sites to be planted. Project planting sites will be monitored to ensure mangrove survival for the 20-year lifetime of the project and are required to remain undisturbed for at least 30 years after planting.
Restoring more than just mangroves
While the YAKOPI mangrove project is still relatively new, the social and economic impacts have already been significant. During several visits to the project site, it was apparent to ClimeCo and PUR Projet that YAKOPI’s work had created the first form of income for women in several villages, profoundly enhancing women's empowerment — particularly in areas without formal economies where villagers primarily practice sustenance fishing. The communal mangrove nurseries run by the villages have also created opportunities to strengthen social ties within villages that were not socially close before.
The first planting phase of the project will reforest 1,100 hectares and be complete by early 2024. The project is expected to generate high-quality carbon credits for 20 years, with the first issuance expected in 2025. Additionally, the silvofisheries pilot program will be implemented towards the end of the project, once mature mangroves are established.
ClimeCo is also working to connect one of our plastic credit partners in Indonesia with YAKOPI to identify ways to expand plastic collection to YAKOPI's operations, creating another source of local revenue for many of the local villages.
Ecosystem restoration through the voluntary carbon market
Companies are increasingly turning to nature-based solutions to restore ecosystems and drive climate, economic and ecological impacts. But the rapid growth of carbon markets over the past five years has created its share of issues — including a lack of standardization and understanding as to what constitutes a ‘good’ offset; and many new potential market participants are seeking to understand how to assess opportunities before making a commitment.
The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market — the "standard of standards" for the VCM — recently released its Core Carbon Principles and Assessment Framework, which outlines a standard for “high-integrity” carbon credits that are credible and trustworthy. High-quality credits are also commonly defined as an actual reduction or removal of CO2e that is third-party verified, real, additional, quantifiable, durable, avoids leakage and is listed on a reputable carbon registry.
For ClimeCo, high-quality credits are derived from projects that represent meaningful reductions in carbon emissions and/or CO2 removals associated with activities that are scientifically credible and verifiable under the most rigorous standards and that align with our company ethos of creating broader social and environmental impacts. This means that in addition to achieving proven carbon removal and storage, nature-based projects should also produce positive social impacts by respecting, including and empowering indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs). One of ClimeCo’s focus areas when developing nature-based projects includes performing stakeholder engagement, meaningfully addressing community requests and grievances, and only developing a project where IPLCs welcome the activity.
Projects should also support the biodiversity of local natural ecosystems by, for example, utilizing a mix of native plant species adapted for the conditions of the planted area or by aiming to improve or protect a specific habitat type or food source for local fauna.
Accessing nature-based project opportunities
Carbon credits are not intended to replace rapid decarbonization; but they do play a critical role in accelerating progress toward the dual goals of economy-wide decarbonization and nature-loss prevention. The global economy needs more effective mechanisms to price the costs and uncertainties of achieving these critical goals. In certain jurisdictions, regulated markets provide market signals (such as cap and trade programs). The VCM is an important, complementary option where regulatory markets still need to be improved or developed. Ideally, VCM participants seek to mitigate real-time impacts as a part of their ongoing GHG-reduction strategies.
To achieve a more sustainable and equitable future, companies must increase their support of community-based work that prioritizes people and restores the balance we've lost with nature; ClimeCo can support brands in quantifying environmental benefits and connecting with the VCM to help finance projects to improve people's lives and their environment. Business today will have long-lasting effects on communities and the environment, and we must recognize the interconnectedness of our actions and take responsibility for creating positive change. Investing in sustainable practices, reducing waste and emissions, and actively engaging with communities ensures that their needs and perspectives are heard and incorporated into decision-making processes. By prioritizing people and the planet, companies can improve their bottom line and contribute to building a more just and resilient society for all.