Mainstreaming nature as a climate solution

News 12.01.22

Posted by Lucy Almond, Nature4Climate

Nature4Climate has had the privilege to support building a stronger community of experts and advocates for nature over the past few years. As we look to what lies ahead for nature-based solutions (NBS) in 2022, it is important to take stock of how far we’ve come in our mission to elevate nature’s power to help solve climate change. To do this, we analyzed how the NBS conversation has changed over the last few years. The results clearly show nature has evolved from ‘the forgotten solution’ to the mainstream. Read on to see how far NBS have come in the climate conversation and please subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter, which has inspired these insights.

A quick look at the numbers

Media coverage of natural climate solutions (NCS), and NBS more broadly, has significantly increased over the past two years. According to our media monitoring, we’ve seen a 91% growth in media stories mentioning NCS or NBS in 2021 compared to 2020, and a 263% increase from 2019. Media outlets are driven to write about what their audience wants to read. Of course, not all of this coverage has been positive, and N4C is supporting new research to give us more insight into sentiment, which we hope to share with the community this spring. We are also leading an initiative, together with a group of partners, to build more trust in high-quality nature-based solutions and to address past criticisms head-on. Still, the fact that NBS have become a hotter topic for journalists and editors is good news and reflects the success our community has had in bringing them to the centre of the climate conversation. 

Media Mentions of NCS. 2019 = 3,902, 2020= 7,390, 2021= 14,162

There is a similar story on social media. We’ve seen a growth of almost 220% in the number of social media posts containing #naturalclimatesolutions or #naturebased solutions over the same period! People are engaging with our initiatives or increased media coverage and taking these insights to the most powerful communication platforms of the day. 

Social media posts mentioning NCS. 2019-2020= 19,300, 2020-2021= 61,700

Reflections from our editors

There are other, less quantifiable trends we’ve noticed as we’ve managed our weekly NBS newsletter that are worth sharing. 

First, the ‘Featured News’ section has become harder to write over time, for good reason. When we started developing the first editions of the newsletter in 2020, it was often a challenge to find major stories focused on NCS, carbon markets, deforestation or other related issues that we felt rose to the appropriate level and were right for our audience. Over the past year, we’ve had to establish a weekly editorial call to prune potential featured news items in order to keep the section to a manageable length. This is largely due to the increased coverage and activity we are seeing across the sector, but it is also due to the increasing quality of coverage. While we do our best to pick the most impactful and ‘interesting’ stories each week, we encourage you to also review the Media Roundup section for other interesting picks, and, as always, please feel free to reach out to us directly with tips and suggestions. 

Second, the news we saw in early 2020 through the middle of last year often focused on issues such as perceived lack of integrity, ‘greenwashing’, past market failures and debates between technical vs. nature-based carbon removal solutions. While these are all important concerns that the NBS community is (and has been) working to address, much of this media coverage struggled to give nuanced treatment. However, we are witnessing promising signs that things are starting to change, thanks in large part to more concerted efforts by the NBS community to highlight steps that are being taken to improve social and environmental integrity, strong and unified messaging that NBS are not an alternative for rapid decarbonization and more emphasis on the co-benefits that NBS can deliver in addition to climate gains. This collective effort seems to be moving media coverage beyond questioning NBS’s basic legitimacy, to exploring how NBS can be scaled in a way that delivers impact and integrity. 

This came to fruition at COP26 where word of nature-based solutions increased almost three-fold on Twitter compared to 2020 and mentions of nature corresponded to over 10% of all COP 26 media coverage. Our own weekly briefing turned daily and we were delighted to hear from our readers how interested they were in keeping up with the daily announcements and discussions happening across the Blue Zone.

Third, the newsletter has quickly evolved into a community resource. Thanks to your feedback, this weekly brief grew from a simple media round-up to include events, research, job postings and other announcements.  Sharing opportunities with each other only serves to make our community stronger. We’ve looked to incorporate your feedback, suggestions, and shared resources as much as possible and hope you continue to help us develop the newsletter.

For instance, mainstream media coverage often still comes from the Global North, especially American and European news outlets. While there is no shortage of stories there, we are eager to broaden our perspectives to hear the discussions happening in the South, to hear of action happening on the ground and empower Indigenous and local voices. If you know of quality news outlets covering news across South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia or can provide stories with translated headlines for foreign language publications that can help us broaden our coverage, we would love to hear from you

As we come out of COP26 and 2021 and start to look forward to holding leaders accountable for their commitments and ensuring we follow through on promises of integrity, we hope this inspires all of our readers to continue our shared work with a renewed energy and commitment for the year ahead.