Posted by: Hendra Siry | 10 March, 2010

News Focus: Preserving Marine `amazon` To Curb Climate Change

Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Fadel Muhammad has compared Indonesia`s marine and coastal ecosystem to the Amazon rainforests for sharing carbon sink role. Indonesia is one of the world`s largest maritime countries with about 5.8 million square kilometers of marine territory. Forests, oceans and adjoining marine ecosystems are like the lungs of the atmosphere.

“Indonesia, as a country having 92,000 km-long beach and coastal areas, second after Canada, wants to do more on ocean and marine ecosystems for future generations,” Minister Fadel said at a press conference held on the sidelines of the 11th Special Session of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nusa Dua, Bali Province, on Feb. 25, 2010. Climate change threatens coastal infrastructure, fish stocks, food and water supplies and the health of people across the world. Some 80 per cent to 100 per cent of the world`s coral reefs may suffer annual bleaching events by 2080 under global warming scenarios.

However, oceans also partly provides solution to the climate change problem. The Oceans, which cover around two third of the world`s surface, play a significant role in the global carbon cycle, not only that they represent the largest long-term sink for carbon but they also store and redistribute CO2. Some 93 percent or 40 Tt of the earth`s CO2 is stored and cycled through the oceans. Out of all the biological carbon or green carbon captured in the world, around 55 percent is captured by marine living organisms, not on land, hence it is called `blue carbon`, according to UNEP.

The most crucial climate-combating coastal ecosystems, cover less than 0.5 percent of the sea bed. But these areas covering features such as mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses, were responsible for capturing and storing up to some 70 percent of the carbon permanently stored in the marine realm, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said when launching a global scientific assessment on `Blue Carbon`, together with Minister Fadel in Nusa Dua.

A combination of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation, allied to restoring the coverage and health of these marine and coastal ecosystems, could deliver up to 25 percent of the emissions reductions needed to avoid `dangerous` climate change. However, according to Steiner, since the 1940s, about 30 percent of the area once covered by mangroves had been lost globally. Around 30 percent of seagrasses and 25 percent of the area originally covered by salt-marshes have been globally lost, too.

A UNEP report entitled “Blue Carbon – The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon” produced in collaboration with FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), confirmed that about one-third of the area covered by blue carbon sinks has been lost already and the rest is severely threatened.

The planned joint scientific research program between the Indonesian Government and UNEP is expected to strengthen the science and enhance international awareness related to adaptation and mitigation potential of marine and coastal system. UNEP would seek partners, institutions and countries to participate in the program implementation and funding, according to Steiner.

He also hoped to create parameter on the value of marketing ocean and marine ecosystems. “So that later farmers will be engaged in carbon farming,” he said.
Steiner said the scheme could be modeled on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a U.N.-backed scheme under which developing countries would be paid for protecting and enhancing their forests.

Minister Fadel said the joint program on Blue Carbon has opened an opportunity to conduct further research on the important role of the ocean as controller of climate change. “Indonesia has an extensive area of mangroves and sea grass that in turn, will significantly contribute to the process of carbon sequestration in the coastal areas,” Minister Fadel.

Prior to the World Ocean Conference (WOC) which was held in Manado, May 2009, UNEP Chief Achim Steiner urged the world to improve the health of oceans. “They have to be as fit and resilient as possible, so that they can cope with the climate change burden– so they can continue to provide us with food and the myriad of other economically-important services,” he said. The oceans play a vast role in countering climate change – they are our `blue` forests, he said. According to some experts, the increasing appreciation of the importance of the seas and oceans can be compared with the growing interest in the climate role of forests around ten years ago.

The WOC issued the Manado Declaration which emphasized the crucial role of the ocean, marine and coastal ecosystems and the oceanographic processes as a component of the global climate system and in moderating its weather system. As part of the Manado WOC, Indonesia hosted a summit of Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) for CTI member countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Island, and Timor Leste.

The CTI countries agreed to launch a program on the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Securities and Adaptation to Climate Change (CTI-CFFC), a multilateral partnership to safeguard unique marine and coastal biological resources of this area widely regarded as the “Amazon of the oceans.” Because of Indonesia`s active roles in ocean issues, UNEP presented a UNEP Award of Leadership for Promoting Ocean and Marine Conservation and Management to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the opening ceremony of the world environmental affairs ministers` meeting in Nusa Dua, on Feb. 24.

Upon receiving the award, President Yudhoyono said the award was not only for him but also for the people of Indonesia, and it would encourage the nation to be more responsible in managing the marine and coastal ecosystems. As a developing and archipelagic country which its people`s livelihood heavily depends on coastal and marine ecosystems, Indonesia is considered among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and therefore has the utmost interest in preserving the marine “Amazon”.

Source: ANTARA – March 4, 2010
By Fardah

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