Last week, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) published a report in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF), setting out the ways in which companies can integrate natural climate solutions into their business plans.
While new research has found that these nature-based solutions could deliver 37% of the emissions reductions needed to cap our warming temperatures, they barely feature in global decarbonisation strategies. Now, increased attention is being paid to these underutilised methods of emissions reduction.
With nature protection and carbon abatement the targets going up in every business’ priorities, we thought we’d take a broad look at some of the solutions out there. While these are seen more as interim than final solutions, they can still provide a valid means of reducing your carbon footprint, and doing your part to protect the planet.
Restore natural forests
According to the World Wildlife Fund, restoring upland forests could help save $890m every year, as well as improve water flows for 534 of the world’s largest cities. Additionally, a study published in the journal Science states that two-thirds of man-made carbon can be removed from the atmosphere if we allowed forests to regrow.
Encouraging companies to invest in reforestation schemes is a fairly clear and popular suggestion, though it’s also important to note that the right kind of trees need to be used for rewilding an area – choosing diverse species that are native to the region to create stable, flourishing eco-systems. The recent report also highlighted the need for companies to start with their own supply chains before looking too far afield. For those who have natural land such as forests within their business, boosting resilience and diversity in those areas is the first priority – as well as avoiding future commitments that may lead to deforestation or land degradation.
Marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass or tidal marshes can provide a valuable means of helping countries reduce emissions. Known as ‘blue carbon ecosystems’, these coastal systems form carbon sinks that, if cultivated and protected appropriately, can help decarbonisation efforts. While far smaller than terrestrial forests, the marine systems sequester carbon at a much faster rate. By contrast, when damaged they also emit vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
According to the Blue Carbon Initiative, around 151 countries in the world have at least one blue carbon ecosystem – making them an accessible and significant resource for cutting carbon.
As well as investing in protection initiatives, a way of boosting the importance of these ecosystems in climate policy is in buying and selling carbon offsets to create a financial incentive for conservation.
Invest in nature credits
Creating a market for nature-based solutions is just as important as investing in the solutions themselves. As NCS initiatives have historically only received minimal amounts of funding, creating a framework that draws investors’ attention is a valuable means of boosting schemes.
Suggestions for establishing NCS credits, as laid out by Markets for Natural Climate Solutions include nations establishing a public-private fund to purchase international NCS credits in large volumes, as well as countries with a current carbon tax accepting offsets from neighbouring regions as ‘compliance instruments’.
Ensuring transparency and ethical legitimacy in this framework is crucial, and the recent report laid out the ways we can ensure any systems established remain sustainably sound – such as having clear stakeholder consultation and having a non-profit managing credit-issuing projects.