What is the role of nature at a fossil fuel COP?

Posted by Patricia da Matta
Photo: Roberto Sorin/Unsplash


There isn’t any doubt that COP28 is a fossil fuel COP, which will primarily be judged on the extent to which governments accept and commit to transition away from fossil fuels. All eyes are on the embattled Sultan Al-Jaber, COP President and CEO of Adnoc, the UAE’s state-owned oil company, on what agenda he uses his position to advance. His opening remarks about the inclusion of fossil fuels caused a stir, but the subsequent announcement of a loss and damage fund on the first day of the conference represented some real political momentum that many commended the Presidency for, while noting that much more still needs to be done.

So what is nature’s role at this COP? As in years past, nature will have mainstage moments with a number of anticipated announcements, with a particular focus on Nature Day on 9 December. Nature also plays a key role in COP28 negotiations, including the Global Stocktake and Article 6, as well as in important discussions around the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IP and LCs) and closing the finance gap. We’ll be diving into all these issues in due course. And, more broadly, just looking at the immense range of events taking place across all zones, it’s clear that the Nature Positive agenda at COP is stronger than ever, demonstrating the critical role that nature-based solutions can and must play to help tackle the climate crisis.

But it is more important now than ever to be clear that NBS are not an alternative to fossil fuel phase out, but an essential complement, a point that was strongly emphasized in a new study, which involved hundreds of scientists around the world, that highlighted the critical importance of forest conservation, restoration, and sustainable management.

We recommend reading these COP framing pieces for more insight on what’s needed for nature from Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, World Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund.


Two terms that you’ll be hearing quite a bit over the next two weeks, including in these briefs, are the Global Stocktake (GST) and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. We know that many of our readers are policy wonks (or self-described “UNFCCC Nerds”) who can teach college seminars about this stuff, but for those who need a crash-course or refresher, here goes:

The Global Stocktake

What is the Global Stocktake? In simple terms, the Global Stocktake is a process for countries and stakeholders to assess progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. The global stocktake is a two-year process scheduled to happen every five years. The first global stocktake got under way in 2022 and will conclude here at COP28. The objective is to coordinate efforts on climate action, including measures to bridge the gaps in progress. The UN’s recent Global Stocktake Technical Synthesis Report made it clear that the world is not on track to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C. The upcoming Global Stocktake offers countries the opportunity to identify gaps and course correct through upcoming rounds of nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

What does the Global Stocktake Mean for Nature? Britta Johnson of EDF answers, “For the Global Stocktake to enable real and ambitious climate action, Parties (countries) must respond by including nature-based solutions in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to a far greater extent and drastically scale up implementation of nature-based activities to close the mitigation ambition gap. The Global Stocktake can be an important vehicle to deliver an integrated approach to addressing the climate and biodiversity crises.”

To learn more, our It’s Time to Take Stock of Nature campaign explains key asks of policy makers as this process heads towards its conclusion at COP.

Article 6

What is Article 6? Article 6 of the Paris Agreement establishes three approaches for Parties (countries) to voluntarily cooperate in achieving their emission reduction targets and adaptation aims set out in their national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement (Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). This includes market-based approaches (trading money for mitigation outcomes).

What does Article 6 Mean for Nature? The team at TNC answers, “Nature-based solutions, including REDD+ activities, are included in Article 6. As is the case for all sectors, the land sector is not explicitly referred to in the text, however, nature-based solutions could be eligible for Article 6 trades, provided the programs fulfill the Article 6 guidance.” In other words, nature-based solutions could potentially deliver the mitigation outcomes that are then traded, although there is a lot of detail and nuance here. Other good resources to read up on the subject include these brilliantly explainers from TNC, EDF and Ecosystem Marketplace.

*Disclaimer: both of these topics will get increasingly weedy in our coverage. Consider yourselves warned.

Helpful resources from partners

Environmental Finance shares a COP-focused special report on financing net zero.

Trove Research publishes a report that analyzes the impact of allowing firms to use carbon credits to help meet their science-based emissions targets.

Jurisdictional Approaches Resource Hub releases findings and recommendations from a 15-month study initiated to advance understanding of the use of landscape and jurisdictional approaches as a key corporate strategy for downstream and midstream companies to achieve sustainable sourcing and have positive impacts in the regions they are sourcing from.

UNEP shares new nature target-setting guidance that aims to help the banking industry act on nature loss and set targets to align with the objectives of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

Global Canopy launches a new report investigating financial institutions’ abilities to obtain critical geographic location data about the operations and supply chains of companies in their portfolios in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, as part of efforts to better identify and manage their risks and opportunities related to nature.

Ceres shares a scorecard for 53 of the world’s biggest companies on their deforestation policies, assessing the efforts of some of the world’s largest companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chain at a foundational level.

WBCSD publishes its annual progress report on the Soft Commodities Forum, which enables collaboration between six leading agribusinesses to identify solutions to eliminate deforestation and conversion in soy landscapes in the Brazilian Cerrado.