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  • Writer's pictureLara Birkes

Invest In Nature

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

The Solution In Our Midst

Nature Based Solutions

This September, world leaders convened and millions of youth went to the streets.

Awareness of our global climate crisis has reached an all-time high, and humanity may finally be grasping the gravity of our self-imposed predicament. That facts are stubborn things. And just how much will need to change to stay the same.

From the UN General Assembly in New York to Greta Thunberg-inspired climate marches, let’s hope the global consciousness has been awakened and we can finally move onto an enlightened phase of action.

We’re seeing corporate pledges, multilateral funding commitments, pacts and committees, climate targets and grandiose speeches. It’s hard to track the multitude of ways stakeholders, from citizens to CEO’s, are grasping for impact. Now the enthusiasm must equate to scalable solutions, and fast.

Of all the initiatives put forth, one approach stands out to me. Nature Based Solutions, or actions to protect, manage and restore natural ecosystems for the duel benefit of people and planet. Indeed, it’s as straightforward as it sounds. As Greta explains in her video, invest in nature and humanity reaps the benefits.

Sophisticated inventions to address climate change are not to be underestimated. But if simplicity is the highest form of complexity, we need not overthink cost-effective solutions. The answers to reducing our collective footprint are all around us. Globally these range from forests, mangroves, peat bogs, swamps and marshes to sea beds, jungles, grasslands, coral reefs and kelp forests. When managed sustainably, all remove carbon from the air, lock it away and nourish ecosystems that in turn nourish us.

Based on the latest UN Science Report, this Climate Change News article estimates full deployment of nature-based solutions will deliver more than a third of the emission reductions needed by 2030, all while creating 80 million jobs and adding an additional $2.3 trillion in productive growth to the global economy.

Given the return on investment and host of global proposals, it’s relatively simple. BUT our institutions must realign and reinvest to foster our natural environment.

As a percentage of overall emission reductions, nature-based solutions only receive 2% of allotted funding. Carbon markets stand to change that through funding links, which reinforce natural solutions, for example, tying a reduction in deforestation to international carbon credits.

The Nature Conservancy Business Guide begins to highlight these connections, drawing-out the high cost of biodiversity loss to the private sector. And according to the World Economic Forum 2019 Global Risks Report, the estimated annual value of nature’s contributions to people - in the form of food, water purification, pollination, protection against floods, et al - is $125 trillion, or is roughly two-thirds more than global GDP. The need for direct ties between sustainable business practices and environmental preservation is clear.

An important role for entrepreneurs also exists. As consumer awareness collides with the need for global climate action, the opportunity is to leverage innovation, reduce impact and to promote natural systems not deplete them.

Take the carbon neutral supply chain goal that Patagonia set and intends to reach, in part, by sourcing recycled cotton, polyester and down to diminish its footprint. The North Face is working with farmers to adopt new techniques that sequester carbon in soils, contributing to a “climate beneficial” line. Not to mention the particularly impressive Allbirds, which has engrained carbon neutrality and sustainably sourced resources from inception. These are discrete examples, but at scale are the business models of the future.

What I really like about nature-based solutions is their unique applicability to all corners of the world. Here in the rural mountain West, the grasslands are key to scaling this approach. By combating land degradation of these areas we deliver nutritious foods, local economic benefits and job creation in addition to a climate resilient landscape. Wide Open Space touched on the carbon sequestration link to healthy soils and its potential to address the disappearing West, all while fostering our farming and ranching community.

It’s time to turn the page on awareness, embrace action, think locally and develop long-term strategies that invest in the natural systems enabling our existence.


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