Mitigating Climate Change: The Power of Nature-Based Solutions

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are increasingly recognized as essential components of the global response to climate change. NbS are conservation, restoration and land-management actions that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change. NbS can also provide multiple co-benefits for biodiversity, water, livelihoods and human well-being.

Why are NbS important for climate change mitigation?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels requires rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and industrial systems. This implies reducing global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050.

Nature-Based Solutions can contribute to both reducing emissions and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. NbS can decrease emissions related to deforestation and land use, which account for about 23% of total human-caused emissions. NbS can also capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in biomass and soils, enhancing the natural carbon sinks that currently absorb about 30% of human-caused CO2 emissions.

A recent report by UNEP and IUCN estimates that NbS can provide up to 7 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 equivalent per year of mitigation potential by 2030, which is about one-third of the emission reductions needed to keep warming below 1.5°C. The report also shows that NbS are largely a low-cost measure, with more than 80% of the mitigation potential achievable at less than $100 per ton of CO2 equivalent.

What are some examples of NbS for climate change mitigation?

Nature-Based Solutions for climate change mitigation include a range of actions across different ecosystems and sectors. Some examples are:

  • Forests: Protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests can avoid or reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, as well as enhance carbon sequestration in trees and soils. Forests store about 45% of the world’s terrestrial carbon and absorb about 7.6 Gt of CO2 per year. The UNEP-IUCN report estimates that forest-related NbS can deliver about 4.4 Gt of CO2 equivalent per year of mitigation potential by 2030.
  • Peatlands: Conserving and restoring peatlands can prevent or reverse the release of large amounts of carbon that are stored in these wetlands. Peatlands cover only 3% of the global land area but store about 30% of the world’s soil carbon. The UNEP-IUCN report estimates that peatland-related NbS can deliver about 1.1 Gt of CO2 equivalent per year of mitigation potential by 2030.
  • Agriculture: Adopting climate-smart agricultural practices can reduce emissions from fertilizers, manure, rice cultivation and livestock, as well as increase carbon storage in soils and vegetation. Agriculture is responsible for about 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The UNEP-IUCN report estimates that agriculture-related NbS can deliver about 1.4 Gt of CO2 equivalent per year of mitigation potential by 2030.

How can Nature-Based Solutions be scaled up and financed?

Scaling up Nature-Based Solutions for climate change mitigation requires addressing several barriers and challenges, such as lack of awareness, policy coherence, technical capacity, governance and finance. Some key actions to overcome these barriers are:

  • Raising awareness among decision-makers, practitioners and the public about the multiple benefits and cost-effectiveness of NbS for climate change mitigation.
  • Integrating NbS into national and subnational climate policies and plans, such as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDS) and national adaptation plans (NAPs).
  • Strengthening technical capacity to plan, implement, monitor and report on NbS for climate change mitigation, using sound methodologies and standards.
  • Improving governance to ensure the participation, rights and interests of local communities and indigenous peoples in NbS for climate change mitigation, as well as the coordination among different sectors and levels of government.
  • Mobilizing finance from public and private sources to support the implementation of NbS for climate change mitigation, leveraging mechanisms such as carbon markets, green bonds, blended finance and payment for ecosystem services.

Nature-Based Solutions for climate change mitigation offer a win-win opportunity to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, while also supporting sustainable development and human well-being. NbS should be seen as a complement, not a substitute, for the rapid and deep decarbonization of all sectors of the economy. By investing in nature, we can build a more resilient and prosperous future for people and the planet.

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