Vinesh Parmar, Account Executive
While the world continues to struggle with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change issues remain critically important. Protecting and restoring nature are key to tackling climate change, yet taking stock of the impact of human-inflicted damage on biodiversity reveals an array of frightening statistics: an average of 60% of vertebrates have been lost since 1970, 75% of the earth’s land surface has been significantly altered by human action and two thirds of the ocean is reeling from human interference. Deforestation has caused the loss of a third of our forests and with it the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
‘Building Back Better’ with Nature-based Solutions
There is increasing momentum to use the global recovery from Covid-19 to support climate change mitigation. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, “We have a responsibility to recover better” than after the 2008 global financial crisis. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), – defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits” – offer an opportunity to avoid accelerated deforestation and biodiversity loss in short-term recovery plans.
Nature-based Solutions can include:
- Forest protection, management, and restoration
- “Regenerative” agriculture approaches
- Urban architecture innovations, like artificial wetlands to reduce flooding
- Providing clean water by managing watersheds
- Mangrove restoration to mitigate storm damage and save an estimated $80 billion per year in avoided losses
Protecting and growing these natural solutions could provide 37% of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation we require to keep global warming under 2°C over the next decade. But crucially they could also minimize the social and economic impact of Covid-19 by creating employment and economic opportunities.
Profiling Nature-based Solutions
Green shoots of optimism are sprouting with the help of innovation. The Mesoamerican reef in the Yucatan Peninsula, the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere, is an important attraction to driving the USD9bn tourism economy in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Of equal significance is its role in absorbing wave energy, which protects beachfront settlements. Global Parametrics led the renewal of the landmark Mexican Reef Protection Program – a USD1.9m parametric protection solution that enables immediate financial support to restore key parts of the reef, essential in safeguarding the livelihoods of the coastal communities and drawing in tourists, which over 150,000 jobs rely on.
Meanwhile, the Coastal Resources Group is helping countries all over the world to restore their mangroves and create carbon ‘sinks’ – for example, the world’s mangroves sequester about 24 million metric tons of carbon in soil per year – and Malawi has invested 1.5% of its domestic budget to its Youth Forest Restoration Program, employing thousands of young people to grow trees across 50,000 hectares of land (and protecting the livelihoods of its farmers).
Closer to home, the United Kingdom government announced that future flood defense efforts would focus on nature-based approaches, including grassland restoration and allowing rivers to flow more freely across the landscape.
Nature-based solutions have a significant socio-economic role to play in a global recovery from Covid-19. A potential USD10tn in additional business revenue could be generated by moving towards a nature-positive economy and could contribute 395 million new roles to the global job market by 2030. As the world rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic, reassessing its priorities, we need not look beyond what’s already around us to catalyse this transition. Instead, we need to invest in decisions that move us towards a sustainable, nature-friendly approach to economic growth and development.