A Web portal All About Energy source

UNEP: Nature and the solutions it provides to protect and restore our planet


A week ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued what the UN Secretary-General called a “code-red for humanity”, reminding us yet again, that climate change is here and it is getting worse faster. We are now looking down the road at a future where global temperatures rise could exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. A future where the Artic is likely to be sea ice free in September at least once before 2050. A future where sea levels continue to rise unabated – we know that climate change is part and parcel of what we at UNEP call, the triple planetary crisis. Climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste are damaging human prosperity, health and equity. They are threatening our very existence.

We have failed to act hard and fast enough to address the triple crisis –driven by humanity’s unsustainable and misguided consumption of the planet’s resources. We have not done enough to protect the world’s most vulnerable communities and countries. And we are learning that rich or poor, developed or developing, we are all being hit hard.

We can’t even say we sleepwalked into this situation. The body of science available over decades – built by the likes of the IPCC, IPBES, GRID-Arendal and UNEP – means we have walked into it, awake and with our eyes wide open.

So, it is long past time to take decisive action. To reform our economies and societies. Our food systems. Our energy systems. Our transport systems. Our consumption and production habits. Our financial systems. It is long past time to make peace with nature. Not just because we want to halt and reverse the crisis. But because we want everyone’s lives to be better than they have ever been. We want peace. Equity. Opportunity. Health, wealth, happiness, and inter-generational justice.

Before you begin discussing these solutions, please allow me to offer up some thoughts on how we can truly make peace with nature.

The first point to make is that everything starts with accounting for nature.

This is not about putting a dollar sign on a tree or commoditizing nature. But the simple fact is that if we do not value nature, intact and providing the services we need, humanity will continue to destroy it. Inclusive Wealth measures of growth allow us to make investment decisions that back sustainable growth and prosperity. This is why UNEP is encouraging governments, businesses and investors to use natural capital alongside produced and human capital to deliver a true, inclusive measure of growth.

The second point is that we must take advantage of the momentum provided by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Restoring ecosystems is a remarkable solution. It slows climate change. Brings back lost biodiversity. Creates productive agricultural land. Provides jobs. Restores nature’s buffers against zoonotic diseases and pandemics. Helps vulnerable communities adapt to the changing climate.

Ecosystem restoration alone won’t solve all of our problems. We must stop further ecosystem destruction by reforming all our systems. And we must stop destruction now. But the beauty of restoration is that it can put us back on the right track. We now have commitments to restore one billion hectares of land, about half of all that is degraded. We must deliver.

The third point is that we need to accelerate finance.

To meet climate, biodiversity and land degradation targets, financial flows to nature-based solutions must triple by 2030 and increase four-fold by 2050. There are many ways to do this. Governments can still allocate funds to nature-based solutions in COVID-19 recovery packages. They can redirect harmful subsidies to back healthy nature. They can leverage private money for restoration and protection of forests and critical ecosystems, as the LEAF Initiative, supported by Norway is doing. Businesses, banks, investors and insurers can and must reform their operations and financial flows to restore the natural world – a move that is in their own best interests, as they would see if they used inclusive wealth accounting.

Crucially, we need to show real solidarity with developing nations, as promised. COVID-19 has revealed the unacceptable disparity in the trillions of dollars available for economic recovery and vaccines in developed countries, and the trickle of funding available for developing nations. The world is in serious trouble. We need to see serious money.

The fourth point is that we need to join up the climate, biodiversity, pollution agendas.

As I said earlier, we aren’t dealing with three different crises. We are dealing with one. And many of the solutions, particularly nature-based solutions, contribute to our climate, biodiversity and pollution goals. So, we need to join up the agendas. With strong, interlinked commitments on nature-based solutions. With strong, interlinked action on nature across the three Rio Conventions and other multilateral environmental agreements. With net-zero pledges reflected in nationally determined contributions that prioritize healthy nature. With every sector that degrades nature included in the processes, particularly the post-2020 biodiversity framework.

The fifth point is that we should bring the grey and the green together.

Natural infrastructure can do many of the jobs that built infrastructure does, at a much lower cost and with a positive planetary impact. So, we need to bring nature into our cities.

This means parks, and green roofs and streets, to cool cities naturally. This means urban and peri-urban agriculture and aquaculture, to increase food security and bring back biodiversity. This means green, blue and hybrid infrastructure – such as permeable surfaces that capture rainwater to recharge aquifers, rather than sending rain into storm drains and oceans.

The sixth, and final, point is that we can convince citizens to make nature-positive choices.

The tragic floods, wildfires and heatwaves in Europe, North America and Asia are not something we would wish on anyone. But for those countries most responsible for the crisis, we should use this moment to advocate real change. The message is simple: nobody is safe from the triple crisis, but everybody can do something to stop it. Through our consumption choices. Through our investment choices. And through the choices we make on who leads us.

Comments are closed.