Natural climate solutions help reduce carbon emissions and store more carbon in the landscape.
These solutions are often complex and interconnected: and one needs a holistic view across and within landscapes to see the overlaps. They can deliver both significant adaptation and mitigation benefits.
What are natural climate solutions?
All the ways we can deliver natural climate solutions
Avoided habitat conversion and degradation: Rising demand for food and other natural resources has seen the large-scale conversion and degradation of natural habitats such as forests, grasslands, scrublands and wetlands for agriculture and aquaculture. Infrastructure and urban development add further pressure. Habitat conversion and degradation releases carbon otherwise stored in plants and soils. It also diminishes the capacity of land to function as a carbon sink, as rich ecosystems are degraded or lost altogether.
Blue carbon: ‘Blue carbon’ is stored or sequestered in the soil or biomass of coastal wetlands such as saltmarshes, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests, or is carbon released by the destruction or degradation of those ecosystems. These can store up to four times more carbon than terrestrial forests per unit area. Conserving and restoring these valuable environments can significantly improve carbon mitigation and localised resilience to the impacts of climate change, as well as securing people’s livelihoods.
Indigenous leadership: Indigenous peoples living traditional lifestyles commonly have a rich understanding of the environments. They are custodians of the lands across which they have hunted, gathered and farmed for generations. The contribution they can make in delivering sustainable land management practices for both protection and economic production benefit is considerable.
Scaling forestry & wood production
Improved forestry: Smarter ways of managing plantations and other working forests can improve their productivity, just as they can benefit the climate. Removing competing vegetation, more sensitive logging practices and longer cycles between harvests can promote tree growth. These and other enhanced natural forest management practices can be applied across the 1.9 billion hectares of production forest globally.
Reforestation & restoration: The rich and dense ecosystems of tropical and temperate forests are highly effective carbon sinks. Turning less productive and otherwise unused lands into forests and enriching existing forest cover can capture and store gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.
Demand for sustainable wood: Demand for timber is set to double or even triple through to 2050. Ensuring that sustainable forestry meets this demand can create and enhance valuable carbon sinks, while generating jobs and economic growth. Creating new markets for sustainable products.
Fire management: Every year, wildfires clear millions of hectares of woodland and other vegetation, releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The number and severity of fires increases with rising temperatures. Controlled burning, including traditional fire management by Indigenous groups, where possible reduces the frequency of catastrophic fires, while helping to reduce fire risk to people and nature. timber can also help displace carbon-intensive alternatives, from concrete in construction to plastics in packaging
Agriculture that works for planet and people
Soil health: There is a high correlation between soil health and agricultural resilience. Soils store significant amounts of carbon. The amount varies according to farm practices and the biological health of soils. But the degradation of soils undermines the productivity of farmers and resilience of croplands. Correspondingly, enriching soils through smarter agricultural practices such as more efficient use of fertilizers can deliver a triple win: greater carbon retention, higher crop yields and lower costs.
Zero-deforestation supply chain: The vast majority of goods – from food to furniture – require natural materials in the supply chain. Demand for consumer goods has been a principal driver of deforestation. Working with companies to eliminate the use of uncertified sources of timber helps keep precious carbon stores intact and creates opportunities for climate-smart approaches to producing materials.
Food production and waste: A third of all food produced is wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes a year. In addition, as global population and incomes rise, demand for meat grows. The livestock sector is a net emitter, responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.