Nature Based Solutions for Climate Action

We are at the crossroads of a global challenge surrounding climate change, biodiversity loss and equitable development. Once wild and untouched, nature today bears the human footprints and nature alone can reverse the catastrophic losses. Let us get into the details of what climate crisis is and how nature based solutions can tackle climate change.
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Climate change, a phrase being splashed all over. Have you ever thought, does it ever matter? Let us get this  straight, climate change is already affecting the world and we still have time to limit the worst impact. 

Let us ponder over a few questions. 

Don’t we all need our morning cup of coffee? 

Are’nt the coral reefs amazing? 

Don’t we need to protect the planet’s lungs, our incredible forests? 

Don’t we need clean and abundant water and fresh air to breathe? 

We are all fortunate to live in this beautiful world and our future generations also deserve to! 

We are at the crossroads of a global challenge surrounding climate change, biodiversity loss and equitable development. Climate crisis has increased 40% over the last 20 years and most of the people globally are bearing the brunt of the climate and nature crisis. Millions of species are threatened with extinction and the depleting natural resources are affecting the food security and economic growth of a country. Let us get into the details of what climate crisis is and how nature based solutions can tackle climate change. 

Climate Crisis 

Humans are the main cause of climate change. We burn fossil fuels, chop down trees, causing global warming, thereby disrupting the entire  ecosystem. A warmer world even by half a degree can put agriculture, water supply and health at risk. The shift in temperatures are not just thresholds, every rise in warming is detrimental to the planet. The overall ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is inadequate. Even if the pledges and plans to cut emissions go as per schedule, global emissions will still keep growing under the present trends. It is not too late to slow the pace of climate change and avert the impacts. We need to act today or else the window of opportunity to keep the temperatures within limits will be shut totally. 

We need to deal with climate change as it is a key to ensuring sustainable  development and safeguarding economic growth. Inaction will be costlier than acting now. Emission reductions are required to keep global temperatures from increasing and reducing its impacts and moving towards a climate-resilient path. Let us not forget that half of the world’s GDP depends on sectors of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and hence needs sustainable use of resources. 

Every fraction of a degree matters and what we do between now and 2030 will determine whether we can slow global warming to avoid the worst impacts. 

Plants naturally absorb and store carbon. Managing farmlands and forests and protecting natural habitats can store billions of tons of this living carbon. 

Natural Solution to Climate Change 

Nature stores carbon dioxide and plays a major role in regulating climate change. We can unleash nature’s full potential by adoption of regenerative practices planting trees, conserving forests and wetlands and thereby take climate action. 

How does nature help in tackling climate crisis? 

According to IPCC, managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems absorb one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Nature can help in mitigation and adapting to the  worst effects of climate change and play an important role in meeting the goal sof Paris agreement. 

According to UNEP report, humanity is using about 1.6 times the amount of services that nature can provide sustainably. 

Conservation alone will not help in preventing the collapse of the ecosystem. Nature based solutions are an opportunity to address these problems. Storage of carbon, ensuring food and water and protecting against impacts of global warming can assure a nature positive future.

What are Nature based Solutions? 

Nature based solutions are a set of activities that harness the power of nature to protect and restore ecosystems while safeguarding the wellbeing of mankind and biodiversity. Switching to agriculture practices like crop rotation, no-tillage that support healthy soils, restoring coastal wetlands, regrowing of forests help in capturing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in plants and  soils. They provide cleaner air and water and increased biodiversity. Combined with innovations in clean energy and other decarbonization efforts, nature based solutions can offer good solutions in the response to climate change. 

Do you know that Nature based solutions can provide up to 37% of emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep the global temperature rise under 2˚C? 

The idea behind nature based solutions are that when ecosystems are healthy and well managed, they help in reducing GHG emissions, provide clean air and water and increased food security. They are a win-win for both people and nature. 

Types of Nature Based Solutions 

  • Forests are the best examples of nature based solutions. Forests house 80 % of world’s biodiversity and provide clean air and water and protect against erosion and landslides. They regulate the climate by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. The Amazon forests are large reservoirs of carbon sequestering huge amounts of carbon in tree biomass and soils. 

Deforestation and degradation contributes to 13 % of global carbon emissions and we can significantly reduce this warding off the worst impacts of global warming. Forestry practices include planting new forests, allowing forest to regrow naturally and improved forest management. 

  • Mangrove Forests along coastlines are protective barriers against soil erosion and storms and are important for sustainable fishing. They filter water, provide food resources and timber to the coastal communities. Conserving and restoring these ecosystems increase the climate resilience and help in protecting people and the planet. These are the wetland related practices that focus on conserving and restoring peatlands and coastal wetlands. 

Regenerative agriculture practices like cover crops, crop rotation, no-tillage help in soil restoration and regeneration of tree and vegetation. This helps in preventing soil erosion and also in helping to absorb more emissions. Climate smart agriculture

  • enables farmers to retain carbon during crop production. This also includes agroforestry and livestock management. Agroforestry mixes trees with other agriculture land-use like field crops and livestock. Nurturing existing shade trees and planting new ones amidst crops can increase carbon storage and create a protective canopy to regulate temperature and humidity. 
  • Ocean- based practices include restoring seagrass, growing kelp and shellfish to restore marine ecosystems. Coral reefs also provide protection against storms, soil erosion and dissipate wave energy. 

Benefits of Nature based Solutions 

  • They contribute to achieving social and human development goals including environmental protection, climate change and sustainable food production 
  • These solutions can be implemented on land and in oceans and thus save biodiversity. 
  • They deliver tangible and traceable adaptation benefits that have a positive impact on society 
  • They bring down carbon emissions and improve resilience to climate risks. 
  • These solutions address the climate and biodiversity crisis in a synergetic and cost-effective manner. 

Measuring Results from Nature based Solutions 

It is critical to have an evidence-based approach to managing and measuring results from nature based solutions. There has to be both scientific interventions and the indigenous knowledge from the local communities. In order to mitigate climate change, the protocols and equations are well set with carbon dioxide CO2 being the basic metric used. What is critical is to look beyond that and delivering the other benefits. Yes, the impact on biodiversity which is complicated and multi- dimensional. There is no single high-level metric to measure biodiversity in theses dynamic systems. There are only indicators available on the extent of species threatened with extinction  and the provision of critical systems like water. The risks posed to global development is significant on account of climate change and equally so on the global biodiversity and ecosystem losses. Protection and conservation of forests, land restoration and sustainable use of natural ecosystems are the pathways to achieve the Paris agreement.

The Sustainable way Forward 

Sustainable management of lands and forests, protecting and restoring mangroves and grasslands are effective strategies to slow the rate of climate change and mitigate risk. Under the Paris agreement, more than 130 countries have included nature based solutions in their climate plans. However there is a need to make science-driven decisions to apply the right solutions at the right place. Nature based solutions have to be developed in a diversified portfolio. Nature must be at the heart of mitigating climate impacts alongside science-based targets. Nature that may seem as a threat in this warming planet may actually unleash the potential for a safer planet. 

Transformation of agriculture and food systems is imperative to avoid soil and forest degradation and drive regenerative and restorative  activities. Improving livelihoods remains at the core with co-existence of forest and communities. Smallholder farmers need to transit to regenerative practices and this needs to be matched by sustainable consumption from consumer awareness.  

TraceX is working with farmer organizations  driving sustainability through traceability and is building credibility into generating carbon credits with Nature based solutions with its DMRV tool

Once wild and untouched, nature today bears the human footprints but it is nature alone that can be the common ground on which pledges and commitments need to be delivered to reverse catastrophic losses. 

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