Tag Archives: COP26

The economic potential of Nature-based Solutions

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:

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.

Next steps

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.

 

 

Showcasing sustainability around the world

President Biden’s virtual Climate Summit this week has seen important international negotiations on climate and sustainability, and the year ahead promises yet more. Although rescheduled once because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 is due to be held in Glasgow in November, with international leaders coming together to add detail to their pledges.

Arguably, rescheduling last year’s event may not have been a bad thing. As a result of the pandemic, we learnt the positive power of cutting emissions (albeit imposed on us) – with the biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since World War II according to one study – not to mention our capability in responding to existential threats. Meanwhile, the past year has seen some of the strongest climate commitments ever made by governments and business leaders – the EU Green Deal, a greener-than-expected Brexit deal, net-zero pledges by China, South Korea and Japan, Joe Biden’s election as US President, rejoining of the Paris Agreement and hosting of this week’s virtual Climate Summit, which has seen yet more ambitious pledges from international leaders. Climate action is becoming institutionalised.

We all wait in hope that November will bring further ambitious international carbon pledges, and more importantly, the necessary action to complete them. The narrative for COP26 includes the assertion that ‘each of us has a part to play’ and in the run up to the summit, the conversation is mounting around how businesses, society groups, schools and individuals are taking action to tackle climate change and encourage sustainability – working #TogetherForOurPlanet.

A cursory glance at some of the sustainability stories around the globe shows that this can mean different things in different regions, but all are making strides towards a better future. Here are some of those stories we find most inspirational:

The importance of carbon removal in reaching Net Zero

The growth in net zero pledges over the last year – including asset managers BlackRock and Vanguard in March 2021 – has created unprecedented interest in carbon removal strategies and carbon markets. And rightly so. This article by our Finland-based client Puro.earth explains the difference between carbon offsetting and carbon removal, and why the latter is so integral to reaching our net zero targets. Microsoft is on board – it has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030, partnering with Climeworks and Puro.earth (including using the latter’s suppliers Carbofex, ECHO2 and Carbon Cycle to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through production of biochar, allowing carbon to be stored in soil for centuries) to reach its goal.

Powering-up for a greener, brighter future

The European Union has committed 550 billion euros to climate protection and clean technologies over the next seven years, and these plans hinge on batteries to store renewable energy and to power electric vehicles. Analysts say the next generation of batteries must last longer, charge faster and be safer and greener than those on the market now, allowing for innovation. International technology firm Systems Sunlight, has announced a new R&D centre, at which the company will develop innovative lithium battery technologies for the industrial energy storage sector, focusing on new technologies that will usher in a clean energy future.

Chilling out for a cooler climate

Unreasonable Group-backed company Sure Chill has developed a unique cooling technology that allows cooling equipment to maintain a constant temperature without constant power. Rather like a rechargeable battery, the tech is entirely natural and can be linked with solar – perfect for areas of the world with intermittent power. Sure Chill is also working with some of the world’s largest brands to develop solutions within home refrigeration, food and drink, and logistics —all of which contributed to the government of Dubai’s decision to choose Sure Chill as “one of the technologies most likely to change the world in the next 20 years”.

Protecting East African heritage against the threat of climate change

Established in 2016, the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, offers financial backing for projects that tackle the threat from climate change to cultural heritage in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In November last year, the Fund awarded five global heritage projects including the development of disaster risk management strategies for preserving Kenyan and Tanzanian coastal heritage at risk due to rising sea levels, and protection against the impact of flood threats to communities and monuments in Uganda.

Constructing a more sustainable future

With cement production responsible for 8 - 12% of the world’s CO2 emissions, the race is on to find a sustainable alternative for the construction industry. As part of our African Net Zero series, we spoke to Wolfram Schmidt from Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) about his research into alternative materials like cassava and other agricultural residues as a source of ‘green’ African-made cement for future sustainable construction on the Continent. You can watch the full video here.