“I am looking into financial aspects for the betterment of biodiversity and sustainability in Malaysia that would reflect long-term effects through Blue Carbon projects,” said Dr. Anna Azriati Binti Che Azmi with boundless zeal, the Associate Professor from the Department of Accounting, Faculty of Business and Economics. She bogged in the blue carbon projects reflecting carbon credits with her peer, Dr. Norazlin Ab Aziz from the Department of Finance.
“Blue carbon is any carbon related to the ocean,” Dr. Anna pointed out. Generally, blue carbon is the carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in the ocean. The term ‘blue’ refers to the watery nature of the carbon storage. The direct dissolution of CO2 into the oceans accounts for the preponderance of blue carbon. The coastal and marine ecosystems capture and store around 70% of total blue carbon sequestered by the oceans compared to underwater sediments, accounting for only an iota of the blue carbon storage.
Dr. Anna further underscored the importance of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass that play a key role in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions despite their small global footprint. She seemed, apropos of pioneering scientific research, that seagrass has more ability than mangroves to contribute to carbon credits. “However, studies on seagrass are not clear enough to explore their potential towards carbon credits,” she stated.
Figure 1: Differences between algae and seagrass in an ecosystem.
Adapted from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Figure 2: Differences between seagrass and algae in an ecosystem
Adapted from Mongabaykids
Carbon credit serves as a ground-breaking mechanism to invest in projects that mitigate one metric tonne of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, including blue carbon projects and utilization of advent technologies like direct air capture. Each metric tonne of CO2 removed or avoided by a project generates one credit. The credit is sold to fund the project as it continues to reduce emissions. As a project generates credit by carrying a unique serial number, we can track it from its origin to the end user.
Figure 3: The carbon credits ecosystem
Adapted from Paia.com
Indeed, blue carbon projects entice stakeholders who wish to initiate a low-carbon or decarbonizing economy driving towards net-zero carbon dioxide emission for community development and environmental sustainability. Concerning this, Dr. Anna further shared her experience in researching blue carbon. “My intriguing interest in nature-based projects drives me towards exploring seagrass as a blue carbon potential. Yet, I am aware that some [people/companies] are against this blooming project. And, I am too lacking funds to improve Malaysian nature.”
Figure 4: Simplified diagram of carbon transport and sequestration from seaweeds.
Adapted from figures by Hannah Zucker (2019) and Krause-Jensen & Duarte (2016)
As her expertise revolves around economics, she looks for potential stakeholders and industrial professionals who could invest in the blue carbon projects in Malaysia. She actively seeks potential buyers or investors, including companies that emit high carbon dioxide. Most importantly, she aspires to team up with scientists to explore the potential of blue carbon deeply and harvest carbon credits in the long run. With a ray of hope, she said, “I have watched documentation on blue carbon and learned the government laws and regulations on a blue carbon project to prepare myself to embark on the exploration of blue carbon potentials.”
Dr. Anna’s keen exploration of blue carbon was also associated with her economic study on seagrass, which gives an edge to carbon credits. She assimilated the importance of seaweed cultivation to the Sabahans, especially the coastal community since it helps their traditional business. She also believed she could help Orang Asli along the shore in Sabah by implementing the blue carbon credits. According to her, the strenuous effort to execute the project in Sabah will improve the livelihood of the Sabahan tribes and sustainably mitigate climate change.
Figure 5: Framework of the Yokohama Blue Carbon Project.
Adapted from figures by Kuwae, T., et al. (2022)
As claimed by Dr. Anna, the future of blue carbon is truly fruitful if Malaysia trades the blue carbon projects locally in full swing. Currently, the local carbon market is in the pipeline as Bursa Malaysia, a stock exchange in our nation, undertakes carbon projects, including blue carbon. As per the report in 2019, the Philippines became the first home to blue carbon credits in the Asia Pacific. “Since the carbon market is thriving across the globe, it’s an alarm for Malaysia to get the ball rolling. I personally would like to see Malaysia invest in more blue carbon projects for a better livelihood for Malaysians because the projects serve as nature conservation methods, boosting sustainability in Malaysia,” she ended with a note of anticipation.