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As the world faces the twin crises of nature loss and carbon emissions, a consensus is emerging: Investing in nature can be a key solution to both problems. Natural climate solutions (NCS) are actions that conserve, restore, and manage land to increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, investing in NCS may be the only way to achieve climate mitigation.
NCS offer a way to address the twin crises of nature loss and carbon emissions and can also help increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. NCS projects have the potential to yield almost a third of the emissions reduction target required to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030. The following are some of the key points to know about NCS:
NCS projects can provide co-benefits such as increased biodiversity and improved water quality. It also promotes capital flows to forest-rich countries in the Global South in support of sustainable development.
The private sector is increasingly adopting strategies to invest in NCS, with some companies pledging to invest in nature by purchasing NCS-generated carbon credits (or offsets).
Enabling technologies can help unlock NCS potential, such as enhanced tree-planting technologies or software that can improve the effectiveness and monitoring of NCS.
Despite the potential benefits of NCS, investing in nature at a global and meaningful scale faces several challenges. These include:
There is a lack of consensus on how to treat NCS in corporate claims on climate action.
There is low public confidence in the effectiveness of past NCS schemes in contributing to real emissions reductions.
There are challenges to ensuring that NCS projects produce genuine and permanent carbon reductions.
Define net zero and corporate claims: Agreement is needed on NCS standards and certification under one commonly accepted international-standards body.
Highlight good practice for supply: Practitioners must publicise recent progress in establishing good practices, such as more rigorous measurement and verification methods and advances in sustainable land-use policies.
Send a demand signal: Carbon emitters should prioritise high-quality NCS credits with large co-benefits.
Improve market architecture: Standards, infrastructure, and financing need to be developed to support the growth of NCS producing tradable credits.
Create regulatory clarity: Policymakers must turn national and corporate carbon-reduction targets into actionable plans underpinned by binding regulation.
Build trust: Greater collaboration is needed among stakeholders to address the perceived credibility issues of NCS.
Investing in nature is a vital component of the effort to reduce and sequester carbon emissions and of the necessary campaign to combat nature loss. Governments and companies are making bolder commitments to NCS, and the momentum behind realising them is growing. It is time to scale up NCS within a market framework and turn these commitments into action.
‘Theo Oben, our Project Director in Cameroon, supervising one of our projects on the ground.’
In conclusion, nature-based solutions offer a viable solution to the twin crises of nature loss and carbon emissions. Investing in nature can help to address both crises and increase resilience to the impacts of nature and biodiversity loss. However, to scale up NCS, more needs to be done to overcome the challenges of investing in nature. By following the six steps outlined above, we can create a market framework for NCS and turn commitments into action.
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