N4C’s Round-Up Nature at New York Climate Week
It was great to be back meeting people face-to-face at New York Climate Week. As always, there was a huge amount going on with a range of dialogues and events, as well as action-oriented announcements. Following last year’s ‘Nature COP’ in Glasgow, there were more than 100 events dedicated to various aspects of the link between the climate and nature crises, with calls for moving towards a nature-positive world, alongside net zero, growing louder.
An overarching observation was that the discussion around nature-based solutions (NBS) is firmly shifting from high-level commitments and statements toward much more detailed discussions around the technical frameworks required to break through barriers and unlock the full potential of NBS. This was certainly true in the areas of finance, Indigenous peoples and local communities, carbon markets and nature tech. While there is certainly much work still to do, it was extremely encouraging to see such a diverse range of experts and stakeholders engaging constructively around the nitty-gritty of the path forward.
While it would be impossible to summarize all these discussions or provide a complete list of all relevant announcements and events, N4C has pulled together the key nature-related updates from Climate Week. As always, please feel free to send us anything we may have missed.
Science and Analysis
Let’s start with some of the new science and analysis that emerged. The week kicked off with updates from the Forest Declaration Platform, which previewed their upcoming Forest Declaration Assessment results, finding that while the world is not on track toward ending global deforestation – with 6.8 million hectares of forest loss in 2021 (causing 3.8 GtCO2e emissions) – there was some progress last year, with global deforestation declining by 6% and humid tropical forest loss declining by 3%, pointing to progress being made in countries like Indonesia and Gabon.
On the same day, new research by Conservation International and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research was released that finds that to avoid catastrophic climate change, the land sector must reach net zero emissions by 2030 and collectively achieve a 10-gigaton (Gt) carbon sink by 2050 across that footprint. The Exponential Roadmap for Natural Climate Solutions lays out a new benchmark: the ‘Carbon Law for Nature’. There’s a great op-ed by Johan Rockström about it in TIME.
“If all three components of this plan—protection, management, and restoration—are adopted in earnest, they will not only help fight climate change; they will also protect wildlife, reduce disease spillover, promote food and water security and grow rural economies. This is the true potential of bold climate action: A world that is more prosperous, more equitable, and more abundant.” -Johan Rockström, chief scientist at Conservation International and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
The Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) released its annual report, The State of the World’s Mangroves 2022, a compilation of the most current information available on what we know about mangrove forests and what’s being done to reverse the downward trends impacting the coastal trees and the local communities who depend on them.
And a new report, commissioned by the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org initiative, was released that explores the untapped opportunities from tree crop value chains in the Sahel’s Great Green Wall – one of the most ambitious land restoration projects in the world.
Running alongside the UN General Assembly, Climate Week saw the political will for the net zero, nature positive campaign continue to grow.
Responding to this urgency, during a Leaders Pledge for Nature event that included €0.87 billion of new funding from the German government; a 10-point plan for financing biodiversity, endorsed by 16 initial countries; and, the next phase of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (HAC for Nature and People 2.0), supporting the protection of at least 30% of land and ocean globally, which was announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. An accelerator for action on biodiversity was also announced by the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia. There’s a great write-up in Nature.
“As part of our commitment to an international climate finance budget of €6 billion annually by 2025 at the latest, we will increase our biodiversity funding massively to €1.5 billion per year. With this contribution, we want to send a strong signal for an ambitious outcome of the biodiversity COP15.” – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
The following day, COP26 President, Alok Sharma, alongside leaders from the US, Gabon, Canada, Norway, and Guyana, called for countries to come together at COP27 to establish a new Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, which will accelerate the implementation of the unprecedented commitment made at COP26 by over 140 countries to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.
“Ambition to protect the world’s forests has never been in short supply in forest communities and countries. What has been missing is the means to realise that ambition. The FCLP can rapidly change this situation – by bringing Heads of Government together to focus on practical solutions… The world’s people do not need more talk, they need action that converts ambition into results, and I hope the FCLP will be the platform to achieve this.” -President Mohamed Irfaan Ali of Guyana
On the final day of Climate Week, EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, announced a €7bn investment package in biodiversity funding worldwide. This represents a concrete confirmation of the pledge she made a year ago to double the EU‘s international biodiversity funding. The President also announced the EU is preparing Forest Partnerships with Uganda, Zambia, Congo, Guyana and Mongolia.
Finance for nature was a key theme in New York, with a significant number of events and roundtables dedicated to the topic. Financial institutions have a critical role to play in driving the shift towards sustainable agricultural supply chains, with over 450 financial institutions and 7,000 corporations in the Race to Zero committed to net zero targets. The direction of travel is set. Nevertheless, this is not enough. We need more finance and business leaders to see addressing deforestation and investing in nature-based solutions as a critical pathway to net zero delivery.
A new report from the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions finds some of the world’s most valuable food and agriculture companies could lose up to 26% of their value by 2030, with permanent sector-wide losses equivalent to the 2008 financial crash. The analysis prompted a call to financiers by COP26 President and UN Climate Change High-Level Champions to eliminate deforestation from investments and show progress by 2025.
“The cost of inaction is acute. But the benefits of action will be transformative. Let’s all make that choice.” – COP26 President, Alok Sharma
The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) released its Expectations for Real-economy Transition Plans to help companies navigate disclosure requests from financial institutions.
“We’re not going to get to net zero without addressing deforestation,” said Mark Carney at a Race to Zero event. “Assess, develop plans, and act. And integrate those into these net zero plans.”
The analysis was discussed at a high-level “Nature Positive for a Net Zero Future” event, which highlighted the opportunities for private sector breakthroughs, action delivered and tools to reach a net zero, nature positive future and demonstrate how action to address deforestation is a powerful lever to support and facilitate success in connected climate and nature-based efforts across the globe.
Separately, the Taskforce on Nature Markets released a paper that maps key aspects of nature markets and includes a systematic economic quantification of nature markets globally, in USD. The research finds that nature markets already produce and trade more than US$7 trillion worth of goods and services annually, equivalent to 8.6% of global GDP. More than half of this value comes from agricultural production alone. The study also finds that an estimated 1.2 billion hectares of privately owned asset value is estimated at US$ 8.6 trillion, 85% of which is agricultural land.
Climate Week also shone a light on a wide range of innovations happening in key geographies. One example includes the work being done in Brazil’s state of Pará, which is developing a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Program to incentivize and enable large-scale restoration. The funding structure being developed is a blended capital approach consisting of concessionary capital, commercial capital, technical assistance, and grants. The state government of Pará, The Nature Conservancy and private partners are creating a private restoration fund to leverage investments in agroforestry and forest restoration. This initiative will adopt robust social and environmental safeguards and benefit-sharing mechanisms. These benefits will recognize and reward the stakeholders who protect and restore the Amazon.
Another example is the global debt conversion in Barbados which was announced last week. Through a new co-guarantee structure with a $50 million guarantee from The Nature Conservancy alongside a $100 million guarantee from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Barbados completed a $150 million debt conversion that will facilitate the expansion of the country’s marine protected areas from virtually zero to approximately 30% and improve management for all marine waters within its jurisdiction.
“This climate crisis is one that requires the urgent action of all. While we continue to push and wait on the international community at large to treat this situation as a matter of priority, we in Barbados have taken action of our own to combat its damaging effects.” – Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley
Guidance for Companies
As companies look to engage more deeply in net zero and nature positive journeys, a number of helpful guidance documents and reports were published.
The Natural Climate Solutions Alliance with support from the Sustainability Institute by ERM released a guide – ‘Natural Climate Solutions and the Voluntary Carbon Market’ – to provide decision-makers guidance to drive demand for high-quality natural climate solutions (NCS) projects and urge companies to mitigate their emissions beyond their value chains. The guide provides C-suite executives with an overview of why they should purchase NCS credits and it also provides an overview of the business drivers for investing in NCS voluntary carbon credits.
The Consumer Goods Forum released a report featuring new data to demonstrate collectively how all Forest Positive Coalition of Action members are reporting on 62% of the Coalition’s set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The report shows how the world’s leading initiative of consumer goods companies taking collective action on deforestation are taking individual and collective steps to transform palm oil, soy, paper packaging, and beef supply chains and production landscapes, while also acknowledging the considerable work still to be done.
“Creating a forest positive future means completely transforming how we do business at every step of the value chain, from CEOs to smallholder farmers. We are proud to demonstrate our progress driving this transformational change throughout the value chain in this latest report, and invite everyone, from other businesses to civil society to consumers, to join us in our journey to forest positive.” – Grant F. Reid, CEO and Office of the President, Mars, Incorporated
The World Economic Forum released a new report – Forests for Climate: Scaling up Forest Conservation to Reach Net Zero – that makes the case for private sector investment in national and sub-national approaches to protect forests. The report analyzes an approach known as “jurisdictional REDD+” that channels results-based payments to forest governments and communities that avoid deforestation across entire landscapes.
There was also a range of events focused on progress and innovation in the world of voluntary carbon markets, which were far too numerous to list here. However, reports coming out of climate week were that stakeholder dialogues around the Integrity Council’s Core Carbon Principles were constructive. For a small sample, check out the recordings from the series of panels at APCO’s Forum on Climate.
Technology and innovation
Here at Nature4Climate, we like nature tech, but we also love the data coming from it. We hosted an event, with our partners at the Open Earth Foundation, to launch a working group on common reporting standards on data provenance. This can lead to greater interoperability and therefore aggregated insights from earth system data sets (policy, satellite, land use, ocean metrics, commitments, emissions, finance etc), with the aim of digitizing the land use data for the Global Stocktake to present at the 2023 Bonn intersessional.
One great example of nature tech that emerged from Climate Week was the announcement by Microsoft Corp., Planet Labs PBC and The Nature Conservancy of plans to launch the Global Renewables Watch (GRW), a first-of-its-kind living atlas intended to map and measure all utility-scale solar and wind installations on Earth using artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite imagery, allowing users to evaluate clean energy transition progress and track trends over time.