Now is the time to act for a nature positive future

By James Lloyd, Nature4Climate Coalition Director | November 6, 2021

Nature is fundamental to our very existence – from the air we breathe, to the food we eat, and to human health – but it is also essential to meeting global climate goals. Indeed, there is no viable route to limiting global warming to 1.5°C and building resilience without urgently protecting, managing and restoring nature.

Nature-based solutions (NBS) can help us to achieve more than a third of the greenhouse gas reductions needed by 2030 to meet the Paris climate target. Nature’s potential is huge: from the creation of 395 million jobs globally to delivering $10.1tn in economic value by 2030.

From wetlands and oceans to forests and mangroves, nature is our best carbon sink. Investing in ecosystem-based approaches and transformative changes in land and agriculture sectors could deliver an additional 11 Gt CO2-eq per year in avoided emissions, and a further 10 Gt CO2-eq per year in carbon sequestered into the biosphere by 2050.

But investment into NBS needs to triple by 2030 and increase fourfold by 2050 for the world to meet its climate change, biodiversity and land degradation targets. In 2015, only one-third of countries included language related to land-use, land-use change and forestry in their NDCs, indicating a significant opportunity to increase the ambition of NDCs through high-quality nature-based solutions.

It is for this reason that Nature4Climate, with our partners Metabolic, have created the world’s largest global database of public policies to support nature, to help governments and investors target billions of dollars to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis more effectively.

The Nature-Based Solutions Policy Tracker is the first to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify legislation and investment plans for NBS, and to assess their effectiveness. The analysis found that the most common focus for solutions was coastal restoration, mentioned in 13.6% of policies, followed by tackling deforestation (11.4%), community-led conservation (10.8%), and reforestation (10.4%). However, the search found very few references to policies to protect and establish healthy soils, regenerative agriculture, and “carbon farming” practice.

To fill the investment & policy gap, and bring focus to nature’s potential, we also need to see bold leadership on climate and nature, with policies and action that put nature at the centre. The race is on to turn words into actions and create an equitable, net-zero, climate resilient, nature-positive world for all.

What needs to happen

PROTECT – By protecting the world’s natural ecosystems, and respecting the Indigenous and local communities that manage them, from unsustainable practices and degradation, we can unleash their potential to draw down carbon and provide critical ecosystem services and boost resilience to the impacts of climate change.

MANAGE – By 2030, all farming systems and working lands must shift from being carbon emitters to carbon sinks. We have a huge opportunity to adapt and transform food and agriculture systems to get the world to net-zero in line with the Paris Agreement, build resilience, and restore our natural ecosystems.

RESTORE – One-third of the planet’s land is degraded. We need a global effort to restore what is lost, combined with an ambitious framework for biodiversity. Restoring forests, peatlands and mangroves globally has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 10 billion tonnes annually, as well as generating major economic, employment and biodiversity benefits.

FINANCE – To ensure a liveable Earth system, we must urgently redirect finance away from destroying our ecosystems and towards sustainable production, technologies and markets that contribute to a nature-positive, net-zero pathway. Investing in nature-based solutions is the smartest investment decision we can make.

We need to do this in a way which enhances resilient livelihoods and creates jobs in the rural economy, encourages sustainable food production, promotes good stewardship of land, forests, oceans and the protection and restoration of critical ecosystems, and rewards people for the actions they take to protect the environment. Indigenous People are often the most critical part of healthy ecosystems, bringing with them knowledge and wisdom that our conservation science is yet to understand. NBS must always be designed and implemented with Indigenous participation and consent if they are to be successful.

At COP26, in an unprecedented effort to create one collective voice that advocates for nature in the climate agenda, Nature4Climate and 19 partner organisations have built a dedicated Nature+ Zone. The pavilion will serve as an expert hub at the heart of the Glasgow summit, providing opportunities to meet and hear from scientific experts, business leaders, NGOs, indigenous representatives and youth activists on why nature should be accounted as part of the solution for the climate emergency.

The Race to Zero is core to this work. The climate and biodiversity crises cannot be solved without addressing the other. We need to both rapidly decarbonize the world’s economy toward zero emissions and halt the destruction of natural ecosystems. NBS must not be a distraction from efforts to cut operational emissions. They must always be “as well as”, never “instead of”, deep emissions cuts. However, they also must not be ignored.

The evidence is clear: the climate is already changing. But we can build a safer, more resilient world for all people if we act now. One where we use nature to adapt communities and livelihoods so they are resilient to the impact of climate change, preventing future loss and damages. There is a clear and important role for nature in the Race to Resilience.

Momentum is growing and nature’s place in the race has never been clearer or more widely accepted. But there is still much progress to be made. The solutions are ready to be deployed in every country, with local communities and Indigenous people at the heart of this action.

Now is the time to act for a nature positive future.

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