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The 2015 Paris Agreement sets out specific climate goals to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial averages. This requires cutting net carbon emissions roughly in half by 2030 and to zero by 2050. This goal is converging with another one: the protection of nature, which sustains over half the global economy. Natural climate solutions (NCS) offer significant promise in meeting both these goals.
Growing seedling in the soil with a backdrop of the sunlight.
In this article, we’ll discuss how NCS can provide up to one-third of the emissions reduction needed to achieve a 1.5° pathway. NCS can be done at a lower cost than other methods of emissions abatement while also preventing the loss of nature. We'll also explain why NCS deserve attention; how companies, governments, and other stakeholders can bring NCS to scale; and the benefits of investing in NCS.
Demand for NCS is climbing, and their potential is significant. In 2020, carbon credits from NCS purchased on voluntary markets accounted for the abatement of about 32 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The increase in demand for NCS credits could continue.
Net-zero commitments by companies have more than doubled in the past year, and the scale of NCS and offset pledges is rising accordingly. Based on net-zero pledges from more than 700 large companies, there are already commitments to buy about 0.2 gigatonnes CO2 credits by 2030.
Sawa Afforestation Project, DGB.
Abating emissions with NCS typically costs less than technological solutions such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage, and many forms of NCS are available to be deployed immediately, without technological breakthroughs. NCS can deliver up to one-third of the net emission reduction needed to reach the 1.5° pathway by 2030 from eight high-potential solutions.
Investments in NCS can produce an array of co-benefits in addition to emissions abatement. These include environmental co-benefits for biodiversity, soil health, and water quality. Rural communities, in particular, can benefit from the climate resilience that NCS can create. Restored coastal wetlands, for example, can absorb incoming wave energy, reduce flood damage, and provide protection from storms.
Restoration of ocean habitat in coastal area.
Scaling up NCS can help close the biodiversity–finance gap, recently estimated between $722 billion and $967 billion per year over the next 10 years. With 7 gigatonnes CO2 annual emissions abatement potential by 2030, and an illustrative price per tonne of $20, capital flows toward NCS could exceed $100 billion.
To bring NCS to scale, companies, governments, and other stakeholders need to overcome technical and conceptual hurdles, as well as institutional failures and poor experiences of past schemes. There are six actions to help create certainty for buyers, suppliers, and regulators. These actions include defining net-zero and corporate claims, highlighting good practices for supply, sending a demand signal, improving market architecture, creating regulatory clarity, and building trust.
NCS have significant potential to contribute to reducing carbon emissions and protecting nature. They offer a cost-effective and readily available solution that can provide co-benefits for biodiversity, soil health, and water quality. Whilst there are some technical and conceptual hurdles that need to be overcome, stakeholders can still create certainty for buyers, suppliers, and regulators.
In conclusion, NCS can address the converging crises of changing climates and nature loss while delivering sustainable development in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If businesses, governments, and civil-society organisations combine their efforts, they can create the mechanisms, guidelines, and confidence needed to scale markets for high-quality NCS and accelerate their growth. By working together, they can unlock the full potential of NCS and contribute to a more sustainable future.
At DGB Group, we develop global large-scale nature-based projects that sequester large amounts of carbon, thereby helping to restore nature and create a more sustainable future for all. We offer solutions for governments, organisations, investors, and individuals who want to impact nature positively.
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