Investments in nature given boost by new guidance on quality from the Natural Climate Solutions Alliance

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WBCSD

Today the Natural Climate Solutions Alliance, a multistakeholder coalition convened by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), publishes “Natural Climate Solutions for Corporates”.

Natural climate solutions (NCS) are actions to conserve, restore, or improve the management of land and coastal ecosystems (e.g. forests, wetlands, grasslands, agricultural land) that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions.[1] They have been estimated to support up to around one third  of the required climate change mitigation for a Below-2°C pathway by 2030.[2] By investing in NCS credits to neutralize or compensate for GHG emissions on the transition to net zero, business can help scale NCS to reach this climate mitigation potential.

This new report positions NCS as part of robust corporate climate strategies that recognize the critical role that nature can play in tackling the climate crisis, and provides business with clear and practical guidance on how to invest in high-quality NCS credits.

Developed with expert input from NCS Alliance members, these guidelines call for high ambition climate strategies consistent with the Paris Agreement goals, high integrity supply of NCS credits and robust international markets.

With an urgent need to increase investment in nature for climate impact, this report is timely. Momentum for corporate commitments to go “carbon neutral” or “net zero” provides an opportunity to channel much needed finance towards natural ecosystems. This is a critical pathway that can tackle both the climate and biodiversity crises while also providing improved livelihoods for local people.

All of this, however, depends on carbon markets. For these markets to scale with integrity and – critically – the trust of all private sector and civil society stakeholders, we need to make sure that NCS credits are developed using the best practices and quality principles. This way, NCS can achieve their potential and deliver real, positive impacts on climate, biodiversity and society.

“Natural Climate Solutions for Corporates” represents the first time that over 40 civil society and business voices have come together to lay out what good investments could look like. In the race to close the nature financing gap and help scale NCS to meet their climate mitigation potential and contribute to the Paris Agreement goals and other societal challenges, this is a game-changer.

“We must act now to deal with the urgency of the nature loss, climate change and inequality crises that society faces” said Claire O’Neill, Managing Director of the Climate & Energy Program at WBCSD and NCS Alliance Steering Committee member. “With the right guardrails, as outlined by “Natural Climate Solutions for Corporates”, private sector investment in NCS could be a transformative part of our transition to a world in which more than nine billion people can live well, within planetary boundaries.”

“The global community must catalyze business and policy action to halve emissions by 2030 and accelerate an inclusive transition to a global net-zero economy by 2050. To get there we must now go all in for 2030.  And if we are all in for 2030, we need to be all in on Natural Climate Solution where we can unlock 30% of the climate solution in the next 10 years” said María Mendiluce, CEO We Mean Business, of which WBCSD is a partner.

Justin Adams is the co-Head of Platform for the Acceleration of Nature-Based Solutions at the WEF, and NCS Alliance Steering Committee member. He sees the potential impact of the new report: “This guide for corporates cuts through the complexity of issues surrounding NCS to provide a clear roadmap for action for how companies can ensure they are engaging with and investing in NCS with the highest integrity to build trust in their own actions and the broader sector. It is critical that NCS is done right – both to ensure it is an integral part of a broader climate strategy and not used as an excuse for inaction on decarbonization and to ensure that the programs on the ground deliver genuine benefit to both nature and local communities”

The timely importance of this guidance is echoed by private sector members of the NCS Alliance. “We are in a race against time to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, halt tropical forest loss and reverse biodiversity crisis” stated Thomas Lingard, Global Climate & Environment Director at Unilever and NCS Alliance Steering Committee member. “That’s why businesses’ interest in natural climate solutions that contribute to all these objectives is rightly gaining momentum. However, the complexity surrounding emissions reduction pathways, net-zero targets, carbon credits and company claims is a barrier to many companies taking action. Appropriate guidance to help businesses structure their climate strategies is needed.”

“High quality carbon credits can help finance some of the significant investment required for nature conservation and restoration” confirms Jesper Nielsen, Managing Managing Director & Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), emphasizing that “We also need companies to decarbonize their value chains in line with the Paris Agreement. It is not a trade-off, we need both decarbonization and investment in nature.”

Developing a robust market for NCS credits to meet corporate climate commitments requires carbon project developers to implement projects that follow sound and verified carbon measurement and accounting methodologies, and apply rigorous environmental and social safeguards. “Natural Climate Solutions are a proven and effective tool for tackling the climate crisis, reversing biodiversity loss, and delivering myriad benefits for community wellbeing” noted Dharsono Hartono, CEO of PT. Rimba Makmur Utama and the Katingan Mentaya Project based in Indonesia. “Providing we demonstrate credibility, transparency and high environmental integrity from project developers to crediting programs through to committed corporations, natural climate solutions can and should play a vital role in our global mitigation efforts.”

With recent reports from IPBES and the IPCC, as well as the UK Government’s Dasgupta Review, outlining clearly the direct linkages between nature loss and climate, the business case for accelerating investment into natural climate solutions to tackle these twin crises is compelling.

It is the NCS Alliance’s hope that “Natural Climate Solutions for Corporates” forms the foundation that enables NCS to contribute its full potential to delivering the Paris climate goals, as well as solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and intractable environmental and social challenges. Investing in NCS impacts the climate, biodiversity and forest loss, land degradation, sustainable water management and sustainable community livelihoods.

“The most sustainable and impactful NCS will be those that protect or restore biodiverse, functional ecosystems and empower and benefit local actors.  We welcome this initiative’s focus on building corporate commitment to invest in high quality NCS as part of transitioning to net zero” said Joanna Elliot, Senior Conservation Director, Fauna and Flora International.

Download the report (pdf)

[1] and [2] Natural climate solutions. Griscom et al. 2017, PNAS

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