Falling amid multiple, connected global challenges across health, inequality, climate and nature, this year’s International Biodiversity Day, with its resounding slogan “We’re part of the solution”, is a wake-up call for business to recognize and realize its critical role in protecting and restoring natural systems for a fairer, resilient future.
As a society we increasingly recognize the interconnectedness of nature and climate, but have struggled to tackle these twin crises in a holistic manner. This is starting to change. As recently highlighted by COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma, a key priority for COP26 taking place in November this year is to set enabling measures for communities and natural habitats to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
WBCSD members understand the urgency to address the nature and climate crises together. Our recently refreshed Vision 2050: Time to Transform provides a framework for business action in line with the urgency of the challenges that we face if 9 billion people are to live well, within planetary boundaries, by 2050. To move beyond business-as-usual into the accelerated transformations necessary, business leaders must adopt three mindset shifts: reinventing capitalism that rewards true value creation; focusing on building long-term resilience; and taking a regenerative approach beyond doing no harm which builds the capacity of our social and natural ecosystems to heal and thrive.
While business are increasingly recognizing nature’s essential role in supporting human wellbeing and health, we are still outstripping nature’s ability to supply the services on which we all depend.
These services, commonly referred to as “ecosystem services”, are benefits that we enjoy for “free”, such as the provision of fresh water, soil fertility, crop pollination, flood regulation and maintaining a stable climate. Without healthy, functioning ecosystems, the ability of nature to provide these services is impaired or reduced, with disastrous negative consequences for human wellbeing and our societies. Scientists have been sounding the alarm for some time. In 2019, IPBES published a comprehensive assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and found that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The Final Dasgupta Review also showed that we need to ensure that our global economy embeds nature into decision-making, since our economies are a subsidiary of nature, not the other way around.
The 2019 IPBES report also showed that climate change and biodiversity loss are intrinsically linked. The report identifies climate change as the third major driver of nature loss by order of impact. In turn, the loss of nature and the unsustainable use and management of natural resources is the second largest source of carbon emissions and a key driver of climate change.
Nature can provide up to 30% of the climate mitigation that we need by 2030, but it only receives around 8% of public funding. If we had the same level of investment in nature that we have in renewable energy, we would have achieved significant progress towards global climate goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets: reducing nature loss and the severity of the climate emergency we face. To avoid dangerous, irreversible climate change, we must reach net-zero emissions before 2050 and become nature-positive by 2030. The longer we delay action, the more complex and costly the impacts will be to mitigate and adapt to, with disastrous effects on people and planet.
Business can play a critical role in accelerating climate recovery and revering nature loss. Nature-based and Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) which sequester carbon from the atmosphere are fundamental to building true climate resilience and need to occur in tandem with rapid decarbonization of the global economy. Scaling these solutions will be critical to combating the climate emergency while protecting high-value ecosystems and reversing nature loss. Building from WBCSD’s 2019 report Natural Climate Solutions: the Business Perspective, which outlined the critical role that NCS can play in helping companies transition to net zero, our 2020 report Mapping nature-based solutions and natural climate solutions clarifies the vital role of high-quality nature-based and natural climate solutions and their respective scopes towards achieving climate, nature and broader development goals.
Nature-based action will be high on the international agenda this year. From negotiations at the UNFCCC COP26 in November to the UN Food Systems Summit in September and the UN General Assembly, mobilizing countries to address the interconnected risks from climate change and nature loss will permeate international cooperation.
The CBD Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be key for championing and achieving stronger action from these agendas. After failing to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, leaders must agree to an ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to address biodiversity and nature loss, which in turn will drive private sector action which is key to achieving it. Together with leaders from across science, conservation and business, WBCSD recently launched a Global Goal for Nature with three measurable objectives: zero net loss of nature from 2020; net positive by 2030, and; full recovery by 2050.
Business action to address the climate and nature crises is gaining momentum through net zero commitments and science-based targets, but the ambitious yet necessary goals of climate and nature recovery require more. WBCSD has aligned its membership criteria and projects with the ambition of staying within 1.5 degrees of warming and contributing to full recovery of nature by 2050.
Pursuing “net-zero” impact – while critical – is ultimately insufficient by itself to achieving climate and nature recovery. WBCSD’s Natural Climate Solutions and Nature Action projects support business to scale nature’s role in achieving the Paris Agreement goals on climate change and to fully recover nature by 2050. Working with experts and members from across the world, we help businesses to collaborate across sectors and value chains to scale natural climate solutions and nature-based solutions to our planetary emergency: to protect and restore the natural systems on which we all depend.
Restoring nature and our climate will require the concerted effort of us all, but this effort will reward us with a healthy, happy and prosperous planet that provides for 9 billion people. What action can you or your business take today to make these goals a reality?
Nadine McCormick, Manager, Nature Action, WBCSD
James Smith, Manager, Natural Climate Solutions, WBCSD