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Aust gets blue about carbon at UN summit-NewsCO

November 14, 2017

Within hours of arriving at the UN climate talks in Germany Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg was handing out cash.

The Australian government has pledged $6 million for “blue carbon” initiatives mostly in small Pacific Island countries.

Blue carbon projects, such as replanting mangroves and seagrass or protecting crops from storm surges, aim to improve coastal ecosystems.

Australia set up the International Partnership for Blue Carbon at the 2015 climate talks in Paris, bringing together 24 countries and organisations to swap knowledge and build awareness of the importance of these ecosystems.

They can store about four times as much carbon as land-based forests, which Mr Frydenberg said emphasised how important they were to climate change efforts.

“If they are degraded, if they’re not preserved then the impact on our carbon footprint is very, very significant,” he told an event hosted by Fiji at the COP23 on Tuesday.

The federal money will be used for better data collection and integration of blue carbon projects into climate policies and management strategies.

It’s also hoped that by having long-term monitoring of coastal environments communities will become more aware about the knock-on benefits, such as improved health of their fisheries.

Espen Ronneberg, from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program, said such benefits could sometimes be unexpected.

He spoke of one project in Palau that aimed to find salt-resistant crops to help the community protect their agricultural sector from storm surges and sea-level rises.

As part of the project, they replanted mangroves which led to a massive increase in the number of mud crabs in the area.

“While the community was quite happy about getting salt-resistant taro that they could grow, they could make $50 per crab,” Mr Ronneberg said.

“When I was asked by a Palauan official if we could replicate that Palauan project, and I said, ‘Oh, you mean the taro project?’ ‘No, no, no, the crab project!'”

It’s also hoped the injection of Australian money will lead to more private investment, something Fiji’s environment minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said was crucial to ensuring long-term sustainability.

The Australia Institute sought to link the potential emissions savings from blue carbon projects with those the Adani Carmichael mine would generate, quizzing Mr Frydenberg whether one cancelled the other out.

The minister said Australia looked to play a constructive role at international conferences and there would always be different arguments about our involvement in the coal industry.

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