This post first appeared on The Climate Pledge.
The science is clear – companies must aggressively decarbonize their business and also invest in protecting and restoring nature in order to stop the worst impacts of climate change.
When we think about corporate climate action, the story is usually about companies cutting their emissions. Whether that’s from rolling out fleets of electric vehicles, investing in new green technology or purchasing renewable energy, companies are making progress towards net-zero emissions. Less often talked about are companies’ efforts to protect and restore nature.
Natural systems have a huge impact on climate change, both in terms of creating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removing them. One quarter of all human-caused GHGs come from the way we manage land and agriculture. But at the same time, the latest report from the UN’s scientific climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was clear that nature is central to keeping global temperature rise below 1.5ºC. By protecting and restoring nature, we can both reduce the emissions caused by loss of natural systems, and also help remove carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.
When actions to protect and restore nature are measured, verified and accounted for, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can supplement companies’ decarbonization actions. However, these “carbon offsets” can be controversial, with some companies only investing in offsets rather than eliminating GHG emissions from their own activities. But companies must do both – aggressively decarbonize their businesses and also 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. Here’s what we’ve learned:
What is the science behind nature-based solutions?
The simplest and cheapest solution that currently exists for absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide is restoring and protecting nature. Forests, trees, mangroves, peatland, soil and countless other natural ecosystems are key to a more sustainable future.
Many industries have a direct impact on nature. A quarter of net global annual 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 land system into a significant carbon sink by 2050.
Regardless of sector, all companies need to address the emissions they cannot cut and compensate for remaining emissions with high-quality carbon credits. NbS allows us to compensate for emissions, while simultaneously providing co-benefits, such as purifying water sources, enhancing biodiversity, and maintaining our well-being.