Earth Day: Four ways to safeguard investments in nature

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Hashendra Wijesinha, Lead, Nature Action Agenda & Xinqing Lu, Community Specialist, Champions for Nature, Nature Action Agenda


  • This Earth Day, it is more imperative than ever that we act on the challenge of climate change.
  • Biodiversity is declining faster than at any other time in human history.
  • Investing in our planet, particularly its ecosystems, is urgently needed to stay within the 1.5°C climate target, according to the latest IPCC report.

“There is no Planet B!” This is a popular saying by environmental activists when it comes to the deteriorating health of the natural world. And today, as we mark the 52nd Earth Day, it is imperative to act urgently on this challenge. Every consumer, voter, and professional carries the responsibility for this.

Undoubtedly the ongoing global geopolitical shifts are disrupting supply chains, food prices and energy security. However, the world cannot slow the momentum down in its fight against climate change and nature loss as human and planetary prosperity are inextricably interlinked. Biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any other time in human history.

Further, 15 billion trees are lost every year due to human activity, while wildlife populations have declined on average by 60% since 1970. Biodiversity loss is a direct consequence of human activities, such as encroaching onto land and ocean scape, generating pollution or overexploiting biological resources, leading to environmental degradation.

However, alongside raising individual consciousness, it is critical to keep employers, businesses and governments accountable, as they hold access to the most powerful levers in unlocking systemic shifts on nature-positive action.

Invest to mitigate risk and seize opportunities

Earth Day’s 2022 theme is “Invest in our planet”. The World Economic Forum’s New Nature Economy Report series show that more than 50% of the world’s total GDP is highly or moderately dependent on nature and its services, and $700 billion is required annually (less than 1% of global GDP) to reverse the global biodiversity crisis.

Investing in our planet, particularly its ecosystems, is urgently needed to stay within the 1.5°C climate target, according to the latest IPCC report. Higher temperatures and weather events like droughts will result in ecosystems like wetlands releasing significant levels of greenhouse gases, further exacerbating the climate crisis. It was found that the draining of peatlands, a type of wetland, is responsible for over 5% of global carbon emissions.

While there is cause for concern with this risk, regeneration and conservation of ecosystems need to be reframed as opportunities. Nature provides protection for humans and wildlife from climate change. For example, coastal mangroves store three to five times more carbon than neighbouring rainforests. This illustrates that nature plays a pivotal, and interlinked role with climate, and it is up to humanity to decide if we want to use it as an aid, or a weapon.

Nature

What is the World Economic Forum doing about nature?

Biodiversity loss and climate change are occurring at unprecedented rates, threatening humanity’s very survival. Nature is in crisis, but there is hope. Investing in nature can not only increase our resilience to socioeconomic and environmental shocks, but it can help societies thrive.

There is strong recognition within the Forum that the future must be net-zero and nature-positive. The Nature Action Agenda initiative, within the Platform for Accelerating Nature-based Solutions, is an inclusive, multistakeholder movement catalysing economic action to halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

Dynamic and flourishing natural ecosystems are the foundation for human wellbeing and prosperity. The Future of Nature and Business report found that nature-positive transitions in key sectors are good for the economy and could generate up to $10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

To support these transitions, the Platform for Accelerating Nature-based Solutions has convened a community of Champions for Nature promoting the sustainable management of the planet for the good of the economy and society. The Nature Action Agenda also recently launched the 100 Million Farmers initiative, which will drive the transition of the food and agriculture system towards a regenerative model, as well as the BiodiverCities by 2030 initiative to create an urban development model that is in harmony with nature.

Get in touch if you would like to collaborate on these efforts or join one of our communities.

Fortunately, global decision-makers are increasingly giving nature the spotlight in multilateral arenas. At the UN’s 2021 climate conference in Glasgow (COP26), 140 leaders representing 90% of the world’s forests pledged to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030.

Moreover, 100 countries signed up to protect 30% of the global ocean by 2030. The fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly, which concluded in March 2022, witnessed 175 nations endorsing a historic resolution to End Plastic Pollution to forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024.

Four ways to safeguard investment in nature

Despite signs of progress, the gap toward requisite action stays large. We list out four requirements to invest in our planet today:

1. An ambitious ‘Paris-like agreement’ for nature

Like the Paris Agreement on climate change, an ambitious, clear and implementable international agreement for biodiversity would ensure that the nature agenda is raised to the highest political level. The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) hopes will be adopted by governments at the COP15 Summit in Kunming, China later this year, could enable this. The framework aims to set clear targets for governments on halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, thereby facilitating clear action pathways for businesses. Many of its targets will have implications for efforts to tackle climate change, ranging from the role of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to the removal and repurposing of fossil fuel subsidies. It also proposes targets to conserve at least 30% of the planet in protected areas by 2030.

2. Transformative business actions and increased financing

Organisations need to be incentivized to commence the six steps to transition, starting from assessing the realms of nature (biodiversity, freshwater, land, oceans) relevant to their operations and value chain, and then prioritizing impacts, dependencies and opportunities for restoration and regeneration. These efforts need to be complemented by financial institutions and investors who can play a key role in unlocking access to the $700 billion required annually (less than 1% of global GDP) to reverse the global biodiversity crisis.

3. Coherent policies and strengthened regulation

To create the conditions that support nature-positive approaches, ministries such as agriculture, environment, finance and transport need to work together to establish coherent policies.

In particular, governments need to redirect, reform, repurpose or eliminate incentives and subsidies harmful to biodiversity. Today, the world spends $1.8 trillion annually on environmentally harmful subsidies. Almost 90% of the $540 billion in global subsidies given to farmers every year are deemed harmful. With political determination and public-private sector collaboration, we can reform these harmful subsidies and create opportunities for an equitable, nature-positive and net-zero economy.

4. A data, measurement and accountability framework

The age-old adage of “what gets measured gets done” is crucial to building global cooperation on nature. This requires credible and robust data, standardised metrics, easy and open access, and an accountability framework. As the momentum towards addressing the nature loss crisis is rising globally, governments and companies are increasingly making commitments to safeguard nature. We see more and more leaders signing up pledges and agreeing conceptually. Now we need to hold the companies and governments accountable and ensure implementation.

This Earth Day is an opportunity for individuals and communities to uphold their power in rallying their governments, and businesses, to drive these actions to protect the environmental richness of the planet for the decades to come.

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