One billion trees by 2030: why mangrove planting is a profitable way to cut carbon

Published by
ReGen Future Capital

Authors:

Riccardo Segat

Dr. Bremley W. B. Lyngdoh

ReGen Future Capital exists to provide investors with the opportunity to generate good returns whilst creating positive change – by providing powerful climate solutions, supporting sustainable livelihoods and regenerating natural ecosystems at scale.

That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with Worldview International Foundation (WIF) to jointly develop a programme to plant one billion mangrove trees in south and southeast Asia by 2030.

The project aims to protect tens of millions of people from natural disasters, generate millions of dollars for sustainable development, and capture 837 million tonnes of CO2 – more than the combined annual emissions of the UK, France and Belgium.[1]

The project will take place across six countries in south and southeast Asia covering an area of 400,000 hectares; the majority of trees will be planted in Myanmar (30%), followed by Bangladesh (25%), Indonesia (20%), India (15%), Malaysia (10%) and the Philippines (10%).

Proportion of mangrove planting and protection per country

Myanmar 25%
Bangladesh 20%
Indonesia 20%
India 15%
Malaysia 10%
The Philippines 10%

The main focus of the project (70%) will be on planting new trees to increase global capacity to capture carbon, and this portion of the program will sequester a gigantic 837 million tonnes of CO2 through mangrove planting. The remaining 30% of activity will focus on conserving and protecting existing trees, capturing an additional 135 million tons over a period of 20 years.

ReGen Future Capital is providing funding for a deal between WIF and the Government of Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, which makes land available at no cost for mangrove planting. Ownership of the land and the trees is transferred to local communities, and WIF pays villagers $1 for each tree they plant. ReGen Future Capital will own the carbon rights from the land, and the carbon credits generated from the project will be shared equally between ReGen and its investors, and community sustainable development projects implemented by WIF.

WIF implemented Phase 1 of the project between 2015 and 2018, planting more than 5.6 million trees on 2,265 hectares at the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta and completing registration of the project under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The project cuts carbon by restoring the natural capital of the mangrove forest, coastal soil and the ocean ecosystem, and provides social and environmental benefits that address six of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Funding mangrove restoration with carbon credits

Demand for carbon credits has been strong and the credits generated by Phase 1 of the project have already been forward sold up to 2022. A number of companies have already bought credits direct from WIF at prices of $12 to $15 a tonne – sold through specialist carbon providers.

This Phase 1 pilot project of 2265 ha has started the generation of 3.6 million carbon credits over 20 years. We expect carbon prices to rise significantly but, even at $12 a tonne, the $5.6 million investment in mangrove planting will generate over $43.2 million – half of which will support local communities, and the other half is the return to investors who put up capital for the project.

WIF has developed a proven model of regenerative investment and ReGen Future Capital now plans to scale up this remarkable project and implement Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the programme – by mobilising the funding needed to reach its target of planting one billion mangrove trees (2500 trees per ha) by 2030 on 400,000 hectares for an estimated capital investment of 1 billion US dollars. This summer, ReGen will be starting this second phase with an initial 200 hectares of mangrove restoration. By the end of the year, WIF and ReGen will have planted 500 hectares with more than 1.2 million trees. Once this is complete, ReGen will implement Phase 3 of the project for an additional 2,000 hectares in 2021.

WIF has a remaining 100,000 hectares available for planting mangroves in Myanmar (an area the size of New York City) and is planning to work with other local partners in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines who have pilot projects that just need investment to scale up [see table above for proportions]. ReGen will sell the carbon credits generated from every location using the VCS from both Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project.

ReGen has recruited Dr. Bremley W. B. Lyngdoh, who led Phase 1 of the WIF project, as Director of Partnerships to drive forward this initiative. In his own words:

“Replanting mangrove forests is a commitment to future generations. It is a practical way to restore marine ecosystems to strengthen nature’s ability to capture carbon and protect coastal communities from storms and floods. On top of this, the program will sustain a new economy for the local community – alleviating poverty in the region by creating ongoing employment opportunities for the local people.”

 

Why protecting and restoring mangroves is essential

Mangroves are the only forests that grow in saltwater, forming a buffer between land and sea. They capture up to five times more CO2 than rainforest trees, locking it away below ground. They filter and clean run-off and sediments, protecting coral reefs and sea grass meadows, and their deep roots also protect rice paddies from saltwater incursion.

Mature mangrove forests protect coastal communities, providing a buffer against the tropical cyclones that regularly make landfall in Myanmar. Destruction of mangroves for development contributed to Myanmar’s worst natural disaster when Cyclone Nargis hit the country in 2008, killing over 138,000 people and causing more than $10 billion of damage.

The project is already regenerating marine ecosystems. Mangroves can increase seafood production by up to 50% and as fish and crabs recover, dolphins and dugongs are returning.  Wild elephants are also reappearing and being protected.

 

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by restoring mangroves

Most villagers in the project area live below the poverty line and the project is creating new livelihoods which give them incentives to protect the mangrove forest. Fishermen who had been forced to become charcoal burners have stopped chopping down trees and returned to their boats, and an oyster culture project has been established.

A small army of up to 250 men and women now source seedlings from the mangrove forests, raise and plant them and then protect the new trees. Cultivating orchids, collecting nipa palm sap and bee honey provides further sources of income.

The project has generated funds for a number of sustainable development initiatives including establishing plantations for fuel wood to protect the mangroves, providing each household with a fuel-saving wood stove, and repairing school buildings and supporting children with solar lights.

WIF is now exploring ways to accelerate and scale up mangrove planting. As well as seeking partners in new countries it has tested tree planting drones which can fire 100,000 seedpods a day at a rate of two per second and can reach areas that are difficult for people to access. However, hand planting will remain central to the project because it forges a strong bond between villagers and the mangroves and has a better survival rate.

WIF’s mangrove project supports six UN Sustainable Development Goals: ending poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and 2); promoting sustainable growth and jobs (SDG 8); combatting climate change (SDG 13); conserving and sustainably using marine resources (SDG 14); and restoring and sustainably managing forests (SDG 15). Environmental economists at Route2 calculated in 2017 that the full range of ecosystem services provided by each hectare of mangroves is worth up to $9.48 million, if they are protected over 50 years following the Natural Capital Protocol.[2]

 

  1. https://registry.verra.org/app/projectDetail/VCS/2088
    1. [4500 ha x 2500 = 11,250,000 trees capture 9,419,080 tons in 20 years. 1 tree captures 837 kgs in 20 years 1 billion trees = 837 million tonnes of CO2 in 20 years]
  2. Route2, 2017: https://media-openideo-rwd.oiengine.com/attachments/345a6d5c-e64f-48f4-a7fd-0bd528f6724e.pdf

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