Published 11 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Nature-based solutions aren’t a silver-bullet climate solution, but neither is placing all bets on future technologies. If we don't invest in nature now, we can soon expect to spend far more on climate damage with far fewer paths forward.
We are in a climate emergency; and in an emergency, time matters. Today, the
IPCC — the world’s authority on climate change —
released the final chapter of its
sixth assessment and made it undeniably clear: We’re not moving fast enough to head
off catastrophic climate change and irrevocable damage to our lives and
Just as an emergency ambulance ride to the hospital can buy precious time in the
fight to save a patient’s life, we need swift action to stabilize our atmosphere
while we make our way towards long-term decarbonization strategies; and nature
is a critical component of the climate solution that could be our “ambulance
ride” during this critical time for the planet. Every day,
sequester carbon. We have the opportunity to work with the stewards of these
natural systems to change how they manage their forests, farms, pastures and
wetlands to increase the amount of carbon they store today. Through such
“nature-based solutions,” we can increase the amount of CO2 being captured and
stored in natural systems, to least 5 gigatons per
by 2030 and 10 gigatons per year by 2050.
For three decades, we’ve had agreement after agreement — from
Paris — all
saying that we need to act now to head off climate change. Yet, even with all
these handshakes and good intentions, emissions have still gone up year after
year. Every year of this “business as usual” puts our goal of staying below the
critical threshold of 1.5°C of warming further out of reach, and with it our
opportunity to avert the harshest impacts of climate change that set in at 2°C
and beyond. We need drastic and decisive action now. It’s not enough to just
wait for technology to develop or for industries to overhaul their operations;
we need accelerated investment in preserving and restoring nature at scale if we
want to have a chance of heading off the worst damage to come.
Nature is an astonishingly complex web of living things and physical systems
that developed together over eons. Within it, massive flows of energy and matter
shaped the earth and everything that lives on it. For the last few thousand
years, humanity profited from harvesting and mining. Why not now invest in
restoring these systems to combat climate change for our collective benefit?
can store massive quantities of carbon and they’re ready to deploy now. Trees,
for example, are incredible marvels of carbon removal technology that
self-reproduce via code and 3D printing and just happen to have been around for
millenia. By investing in nature-based solutions we also deliver compounding
benefits by improving the health of ecosystems and the local economies that
depend on them. If we don’t invest in changes that preserve and restore natural
systems like forests, soil, and wetlands, we lose both their ability to
sequester huge amounts of carbon and to support the webs of life that support
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decrease their emissions? Yes, without a doubt. Can we eliminate all emissions
from society today or in the next five years? Well, we could turn off every
engine and stop burning every ounce of fossil fuel — but people would starve and
freeze to death. Equitable change at global scale takes time and investment. Our
most vulnerable populations cannot afford to purchase a new electric stove,
trade a diesel tractor for electric, or stop running their heat. So, how can we
make progress on our climate
now while we transition our economy to lower emissions? We can preserve and
Companies hold the largest lever on emissions in their operations, supply
chains, land holdings and investment dollars. After core work to dramatically
cut emissions, their climate strategies should focus in two places:
We need to bridge the gap to a low-carbon future by investing in nature-based
solutions now. Nature features dynamic systems, so nature-based climate
solutions require careful measurement to ensure efficacy. But when done right,
they can be a reliable way to help realize our climate goals while creating
lasting benefits for the people and creatures that depend on our planet’s
ecosystems. At NCX, we’ve worked with thousands of family
landowners to incentivize them to grow their forests a little longer and store
more carbon. Indigo Ag, for example, is
increasing soil carbon by supporting farmers' transition to regenerative
We must scale nature-based solutions; but we can't just “forest” our way out of
climate change. Even 10 gigatons of CO2 removed a year simply isn't enough.
We'll need other means of removing carbon. Thoughtful investments now in nascent
technological solutions such as capturing CO2 from the
may help close the gap in the years to come. These need research, time and money
to develop into accessible, reliable options. I’m frequently inspired by the
work that Frontier is doing to secure demand
from buyers to help boost cutting-edge carbon-removal companies as they try to
scale. But just like nature-based solutions aren’t the complete climate
solution, placing all our bets on future technology as a deus ex machina isn’t
the right approach, either. If we don't invest in nature now, in the future we
can expect to spend far more on the damage with far fewer paths forward.
Published Mar 20, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Zack Parisa is CEO and co-founder of Natural Capital Exchange (NCX) — a market-based, data-driven mechanism for democratizing access to forest carbon markets.