‘Natural solutions’ in focus as EU hosts climate summit with China, Canada

The Nature4Climate initiative shows the potential of 10 natural climate solutions to reduce and store greenhouse gas emissions in 190 countries, both rich and poor, and north and south. [Steve Corey / Flickr]

The Nature4Climate Initiative is officially being launched in Brussels on Wednesday (20 June) by a coalition of conservation organisations, business groups, the UNDP and other major environmental NGOs.

Leading ecologists and businesses have reminded policymakers about “natural solutions” to climate change as the European Commission hosts China and Canada today for the  second Ministerial on Climate Action (MoCA) summit in the Belgian capital.

“The land sector contributes a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions, but could deliver as much as a third of the greenhouse gas reductions required by 2030 to keep global warming below 2 degrees,” said a statement from the coalition.

Until now, environmental NGOs and UN agencies have tended to focus mostly on protecting tropical forests as the main land use climate strategy.

Land use and forestry in particular has turned out as a major headache for EU policymakers, who reverted previous policies on biofuels because of worries over deforestation in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, which are big exporters of palm oil.

Palm oil to be phased out in EU by 2030

The use of palm oil as fuel should disappear in Europe by 2030 under a reform of the bloc’s renewable energy laws agreed this morning after all-night negotiations.

But Nature4Climate has a broader focus and aims to address “the totality of natural climate solutions – across forests, farms, grasslands and wetlands”, the coalition said. Nature4Climate.org aims to show the potential of 10 natural climate solutions to reduce and store greenhouse gas emissions – whether in rich or poor countries.

These include “blue carbon” stored in soil or biomass, promoting zero-deforestation supply chains, tackling food waste and and shifting diets away from meat.

Figueres calls for EU action plan on ‘imported deforestation’

Former UN climate Chief Christiana Figueres, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, has called on the European Union to step up regulatory action against deforestation in the global south by tackling emissions of imported agricultural goods, like beef, soy and palm oil.

As scientists call for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to limit global warming under 2°C, the coalition underlines that natural climate solutions are “the only economic carbon removal solution available today at scale”.

Soils in particular store vast amounts of carbon dioxide. The top metre of the world’s soils contains three times as much carbon as the entire atmosphere, making it a major carbon sink alongside forests and oceans, scientists say.

But the degradation of soils through intensive agriculture can jeopardise this, undermining the productivity of farmers and resilience of croplands, the coalition points out.

“Correspondingly, enriching soils through smarter agricultural practices such as more efficient use of fertilisers can deliver a triple win: greater carbon retention, higher crop yields and lower costs,” the coalition says.

“Nature-based solutions for climate are one of the most cost-effective approaches we have for achieving our climate goals,” said Achim Steiner, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

“They also provide multiple co-benefits for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – investing in nature is not only the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do.”

EU strikes deal on zero emission target for forest sector by 2030

EU member states reached a preliminary agreement with the European Parliament on the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation on Thursday (14 December), closing the trilogues ahead of a plenary vote in January.

Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s state secretary for the environment, is one of the leading political figures supporting the initiative.

“The initiative Nature4Climate is a powerful new instrument to bring voices from governments, international organisations, and business together, and to raise awareness for the potential of nature-based climate change solutions,” he said.

The group brings together UNDP as well as Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Woods Hole Research Center, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI).

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