By: Alejandro Callejas Linares. Associate Specialist. CEDO Intercultural
Climate change is possibly the greatest challenge facing humanity today. If we do not reduce or sequester the volume of greenhouse gases that we emit into the atmosphere, changes in weather and climate will have cascading effects that will impact all energy and materials flows both within the ecosystems and from nature to the people (LPR, 2020). Climate change will become, very soon, the biggest driver of biodiversity loss in the planet (IPBES, 2019).
According to the sixth national communication and second biennial report of the update before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2018), emissions derived from the use of fossil fuels puts Mexico in 13th place in global emissions and responsible for 1.3% of CO2 emissions on the planet. Because of its geographical position, territorial extension, and access to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Mexico is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change on the planet (INECC, 2019).
In this sense, climate adaptation and mitigation are essential to take advantage of our biological diversity, conserve it properly, and maintain the economic conditions that allow social well-being. We are currently aware of the climate scenarios that we will have in the coming decades in the country, we have a legal framework on climate change, and an incipient administrative infrastructure. However, the financial resources allocated are insufficient (PEF, 2021) to successfully make progress against this phenomenon.
Mexico has already published an update of its Nationally Determined Contribution and has also begun the Emissions Trading System Test Program (DOF, 2019). Although Mexico has a good level of accounting for national emissions and by sector, particularly in the AFOLU sector (SEMARNAT, 2018), blue carbon has only been considered in academic and research projects, and Mexico does not have a national public policy associated with the issue or a specific legal framework.
The so-called blue carbon is associated with coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grasses, and marshes. The storage of this organic carbon is done at the soil level and due to its dynamics, it’s estimated that it can last thousands of years in storage. These types of ecosystems cover less than 0.5% of the planet’s marine surface, and it’s estimated that, in one year, they can sequester the equivalent of half of the global transportations sector emissions.
In 2017, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation published the report Analysis of Opportunities to Integrate the Concept of Blue Carbon into Mexican Public Policy (CCA, 2017). The report points to the lack of a legal framework and regulations around this matter in the country and to a lack of awareness of the benefits provided by mangroves, which amount to US$100,000 per hectare. This report also shows that coastal wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems in the country (and in the world). In February 2019 in Mexico, Roberto Lindig Cisneros, from UNAM’s Institute for Ecosystem Research and Sustainability, brought to attention the fact that Mexico lost 62% of its wetlands between 1900 and 2019. Meanwhile at the national level, the two main periods of mangrove area reduction occurred between 1981-2005 (9.6%) and 2005-2010 (1.2%) (Rodríguez-Zuñiga, et. al, 2013).
Although there are very few national cases that have blue carbon commitments within their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), including goals, a baseline, and detailed accounting, it is a great opportunity for Mexico to develop a roadmap that will allow to generate the institutional agreements necessary to integrate blue carbon into its national accounting, legal framework, and country goals on climate matters, and at the same time support fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda, and particularly SDG 13 Climate Action and SDG 14 Underwater Life with goals 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, and 14.2 and 14.5 respectively.
After two years of work that began in 2016, a year after the Paris Agreement was implemented, and in the framework of the COP24 in 2018, the international community within the UNFCCC agreed to apply the guidelines known as the Katowice Climate Package. These rules are a complex compendium of minimum measures, which must be considered to implement the Paris Agreement. They integrate the guidelines for communicating the fulfillment of goals and the framework of objectives for each state, including transparency and monitoring guidelines, as well as progress evaluation and preliminary information on financial support. The national NDC has a specific section for the Katowice Rules.
In Mexico’s case, regarding updating its NDC, blue carbon is found in the Adaptations component, comprised of five axes and 27 lines of action. The Conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services is considered within Axis C in synergy with mitigation component C3—To strengthen instruments and implement actions for biodiversity conservation and restoration in marine, coastal, and freshwater ecosystems, and promote the increase and permanence of carbon reservoirs, emphasizing blue carbon, and is also partially and indirectly found in C4—Implement actions for the conservation and restoration of the seas and oceans, to favor their resilience to climate change.
Likewise, within the NDC’s Mitigation component, blue carbon is integrated in synergy with the Adaptation component within multisectoral approaches and actions, and in tandem with Nature-Based Solutions, such as Blue Carbon and the Protection of Oceans and Coasts.
Finally, under the Katowice Rules, Mexico reported the issue of blue carbon in three of the sections of the rules’ matrix in an annex to the NDC update:
1) Quantifiable information on the reference point (indicating, if applicable, a base year).
d.- Goal related to the reference indicator expressed numerically, for example, as a percentage or amount of the reduction.
Mexico increases its conditional and unconditional emission reduction commitments, with a focus on social participation in the Blue Carbon issue.
3) Scope and coverage.
c.- Secondary mitigation benefits resulting from the adaptation measures and / or economic diversification plans of the Parties, with a description of the specific projects, measures and initiatives that are part of the adaptation measures and / or the plans for economic diversification of the Parties.
[…] Among the most relevant issues to be addressed in the adaptation component with mitigation synergies are protection of strategic infrastructure, integrated water resources management, conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems, soil restoration, restoration and conservation of blue carbon ecosystems and coral reefs, and actions to strengthen the management and conservation of forests and jungles.
4) Planning processes.
f.- Each of the Parties with a nationally determined contribution based on Article 4 of the Paris Agreement consisting of adaptation measures and / or economic diversification plans that give rise to secondary mitigation benefits in accordance with the provisions In Article 4, Paragraph 7 of the Paris Agreement must present information on:
- ii) the projects, specific measures and activities that will be carried out to contribute to mitigation co-benefits, including information on adaptation plans that also produce mitigation co-benefits, which may cover, among others, key sectors such as energy resources, water resources, coastal resources, human settlements and urban planning, agriculture and forestry, as well as economic diversification measures, which can cover, among others, sectors such as industry and manufacturing, energy and mining, transportations and communications, construction, tourism, real estate, agriculture and fishing.
Axes A to E. […] Among the most relevant issues that will be addressed in the adaptation component with mitigation synergies are the protection of strategic infrastructure, integrated water resources management and wastewater treatment, conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems, soil restoration, restoration and conservation of blue carbon ecosystems and coral reefs, and actions to strengthen the management and conservation of forests and jungles.
At CEDO, we are working and preparing proposals with a frame of reference based on the results of the update of the country’s NDC, and taking advantage of our organization’s experience to highlight blue carbon and climate change.
 Se puede revisar la presentación de Irma Fabiola Ramírez Hernández del INECC, hecha el 25 de septiembre del 2019 en: https://www2.cifor.org/taller-regional-de-carbono-azul/
 You can also review the National Inventory of Wetlands here: https://www.gob.mx/conagua/articulos/gracias-al-inh-sabemos-cuantos-humedales-hay-en-mexico?idiom=es
 You can review the map prepared by CONABIO with the information of the study here: http://bioteca.biodiversidad.gob.mx/janium-bin/janium_zui.pl?fn=14173&jzd=/janium/Documentos/Mapa_Manglares/d.jzd
 You can review the September 26, 2019 presentation of Dr. Moritz von Unger from Silvestrum Climate Associates here: https://www2.cifor.org/taller-regional-de-carbono-azul/
 13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related risks and natural disasters in all countries; 13.2 Incorporate measures related to climate change in national policies, strategies and plans; 13.3 Improve education, awareness and human and institutional capacity regarding climate change mitigation, adaptation, reduction of its effects and early warning.
 14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including strengthening their resilience, and adopt measures to restore them renew the health and productivity of the oceans. 14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, in accordance with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information.