It’s critical, not controversial: Why we must double-down on nature investments

This article is sponsored by Amazon and written by We Mean Business Coalitionpartner of climate commitment.

When we think of corporate climate action, the story is usually about companies reducing their emissions. Whether by deploying electric vehicle fleets, investing in new green technology, or purchasing renewable energy, companies are moving towards net-zero emissions. Less often there is talk of corporate efforts to protect and restore nature.

Natural systems have a major impact on climate change, both in terms of the creation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their removal. Quarter of all human-caused GHGs come from the way we manage land and agriculture. But at the same time, the latest report of the United Nations climate science body, the IPCC, was clear that nature is essential to keep the increase in global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius. By protecting and restoring nature, we can reduce emissions caused by the loss of natural systems and help remove carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere.

When actions to protect and restore nature are measured, verified and accounted for, nature-based solutions (NbS) can complement companies’ decarbonisation actions. However, these “carbon offsets” can be controversial, with some companies only investing in offsets rather than removing GHG emissions from their own activities. But companies must do both: aggressively decarbonize their businesses and invest in protecting and restoring nature.

The We Mean Business Coalition has been working with scientists, business leaders and carbon market experts to understand how NbS can help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. This is what we have learned:

What is the science behind nature-based solutions?

The simplest and cheapest solution to absorb and sequester carbon dioxide is to restore and protect nature. Forests, trees, mangroves, peatlands, soil and many other natural ecosystems are essential for a more sustainable future.

Aerial view of a mangrove forest in the Saloum Delta National Park in Senegal.

Many industries have a direct impact on nature. A quarter of net annual global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses. Companies working in these sectors have a special responsibility to eliminate emissions from deforestation and transform the Earth system into a major carbon sink by 2050.

Regardless of the sector, all companies must address the emissions they cannot reduce and offset the remaining emissions with high-quality carbon credits. NbS allows us to offset emissions while providing co-benefits such as purifying water sources, enhancing biodiversity and maintaining our well-being.

But won’t it be long before the benefits of investments in nature materialize?

Addressing emissions from nature loss will pay immediate dividends today; in fact, science shows that NbS are some of the most promising near-term climate actions, providing 30 percent of the climate solution needed in the next decade. Protecting ecosystems now will allow nature to provide vital benefits, such as filtering and cleaning our air and protecting communities from the impacts of extreme weather events. As storms, wildfires and floods become more frequent, action in support of nature has never been more urgent.

However, nature takes decades to fully restore itself and many NbS actions require a long-term commitment. That is why funding for reforestation, agroforestry and other restoration actions is needed today to meet our long-term climate goals.

Can carbon markets help meet our climate goals?

Yes. Voluntary carbon markets are needed to finance NbS. Here’s how: Companies buy a “carbon credit” that represents the reduction or removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The market connects these companies with projects that deliver emission reductions or removals.

To maintain high integrity, buyers in the carbon market must also aggressively decarbonize their own businesses. The voluntary carbon market has previously received backlash as not all companies adhere to these principles. Carbon credits must represent a real reduction or elimination of GHG emissions and guarantee social safeguards for the communities where the project is developed.

How can companies be sure they are investing with high integrity?

The step-by-step guide produced by the Voluntary Carbon Markets Initiative instructs companies on how to credibly participate in carbon markets. On the supply side, the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets has published basic principles to ensure environmental integrity.

What can companies do?

Companies like Amazon, Salesforce and GSK are already taking bold climate action. as signatories of climate commitment, they are committed to the ambitious goal of reaching net zero by 2040. Along with actions like switching to renewable energy, they are also investing significantly in nature. For example, Amazon and Salesforce are among the many participants in the LEAF Coalitionwhich aims to stop deforestation by financing large-scale forest protection.

While these big companies are leading the way, companies of all sizes have a role to play. Small and medium-sized businesses can also invest in a range of nature-based solutions. These solutions include direct purchase of forest or agricultural land, investment in individual projects that protect and restore ecosystems, and reducing the impact of deforestation on your company’s supply chain.

Of course, not everything depends on the companies. Effective government policy and legislation is also necessary. But right now, it’s critical that businesses embrace nature-based solutions alongside technology ones, to ensure a credible and impactful path to net zero.

For more information: Nature-Based Solutions: Crucial for a Net-Zero, Nature-Positive Future – We Mean Business Coalition

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