Seven years to change the world: where we are, how we’ve been and what we can do now
In 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is concluding its 6th Assessment Cycle with the launch of its last synthesis report. We are not expecting good news. The last three times the IPCC spoke to the world, the message was clear: we need to work harder and faster to cut GhG emissions and increase the resilience of ecosystems and people. Climate change is far from being a distant threat, but a present-day reality. And, the impacts are being felt everywhere on the planet, especially among the most vulnerable communities of the Global South. But the science is also clear on another matter: nature is a powerful ally in both mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as safeguarding livelihoods, biodiversity and the economy.
2023 marks a critical crossroads for humanity and the planet we live on. The IPCC report will be closely followed by another critical moment for reaching the Paris Agreement target: the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake. From what we’re hearing, it is most likely that we will not be where we need to be, with many countries still needing to finalise and/or increase the ambition of their national plans – as well as speed up implementation. These reports can be read as thermometer readings. And as thermometer readings, these reports should trigger urgent action.
The journey here
To tackle climate change and its impacts, world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris reached a breakthrough moment on 12 December 2015: the historic Paris Agreement. This was a collective deal to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius in this century while striving for the optimal result of 1.5 degrees.
Every year, the signatories come together at the UN Climate Change Conference to agree on strategies to operationalise its delivery, as well as tackle systemic changes that need to happen to address the already existing and future impacts of climate change across the globe.
On the nature front, a number of breakthrough agreements and commitments announced over the last three editions of the UN Climate Change Conference signalled a path to follow. COP 26 held in Glasgow in 2021 concluded the operational details for the practical implementation of the Paris Agreement, called the Paris Rulebook, as well as a series of other commitments and policies to help to address, the ambition loop (you can keep track of top nature-related commitments with our tracker here). Last year also ended on a particularly positive note with nature-based solutions coming through the final COP 27 decision text, and the long-awaited COP 15 bringing forth the global framework on biodiversity. In March, the Global High Seas Treaty was also agreed upon.
What happens next
The Paris Agreement works on a five-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action carried out by countries. Every five years, each country is expected to submit an updated national climate action plan – known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC.
2023 marks the conclusion of the first “global stocktake”, which assessed progress on Paris Agreement goals. This process will further encourage countries to take ambitious climate actions that keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
2025 is the year where most systemic shifts need to be accounted and planned for.
2030 is the deadline for net-zero targets and delivering on the 30×30 goal on biodiversity.
What can we do now
More than half of the world’s total GDP is dependent on nature. The IPCC has also stated that maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services resilience depends on effective and equitable conservation of 30% – 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas. It is therefore imperative that we protect, manage and restore nature to leverage its unique capacity to provide viable and scalable climate solutions and a more abundant, stable planet.
Here is what needs to happen to secure a nature positive future:
- Support high-quality nature-based solutions for 11Gt of emissions reductions and implementation of strategies that help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. Ecosystem integrity in terrestrial, inland waters and coastal and marine ecosystems is critical to keep global warming to 1.5°C; limiting and adapting to the inevitable climate impacts and stopping biodiversity loss. It could also generate $10 trillion per year while creating 400 million new jobs.
- Elevate the voices at the frontline of action – Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. Delivering on pledged funds, such as the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use and the Peoples Forests Partnership, would add up to over USD 20 billion, at the same time as securing their land rights and decision-making agency can shift us in the right direction at top speed.
- Halt and reverse nature loss, illegal deforestation and making the transition to deforestation-free investment portfolios within financial institutions. Initiatives such as the roadmap for achieving Net Zero Food Systems by 2050, the Accountability framework and the Deforestation Action Tracker can help.
- Repurpose harmful subsidies for agriculture to support more sustainable regenerative food production. Building on the work of the Just Rural Transition which shows that refocusing subsidies could help drive the transition to sustainable regenerative agriculture. The World Bank reports on how repurposing current policies could deliver multiple benefits for farmers, food security and climate.
- Invest in an integrated approach to policy-making, with good regulation, standards and budgets designed to deliver high-quality NbS at scale. These ambitious policy frameworks need to reflect and be reflected on NDCs and NAPs (N4C’s NbS Policy Tracker can show where this has been done well and how the ambition loop can be improved)
- Support frameworks, standards, accountability mechanisms, and guidance to elevate the solutions for high-integrity carbon pricing and results-based payments for NbS, including Article 6 mechanisms, and delivering finance for REDD+ results.