– Climate change experts and leaders from the Commonwealth member states rallied behind calls to accelerate climate finance for nature-based solutions to arrest the pace of climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss.
Featuring prominently at the global COP26 climate talks during a high-level event hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in conjunction with the government of Zambia and Namibia, speakers emphasised at the heart of the nature-based solutions approach is human survival and well-being.
Titled ‘Accelerating Climate Finance for Nature-based Solutions-Climate, Land and Biodiversity Targets’, participants heard that nature-based solutions play an essential role in stopping and reversing the unprecedented loss of ecosystems while building resilience against climate change.
Patricia Scotland, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, lauded nature-based solutions as an effective and immediate remedy to pressing societal and development challenges.
“Many societal changes and challenges are now presenting to us, and we are currently facing them boldly and bravely. They touch on human health, climate change, biodiversity loss, food and water security, and environmental degradation not just on our land but in our ocean,” Scotland said.
“They are all tied to state and functioning of the natural environment. So multi-impact scenarios, like those that the world has experienced over the last two years, have unfortunately shown us what happens when this in-extricable link is broken.”
The high-level panel included representatives from the Governments of Zambia, Namibia, Seychelles and Australia. It was followed by a second-panel discussion with partner organisations, including the Green Climate Fund, World Wide Fund for Nature, the Development Bank of Rwanda and the Department of Climate Change of Mauritius.
Nature-based solutions, panellists said, involve actions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore all ecosystems, including oceans and forests. In this regard, sustainable land management, for instance, is prioritised to tackle land degradation and promote climate-resilient land use.
Within this context, discussions centred on identifying gaps, challenges, and solutions for advancing sustainable financing mechanisms around nature-based solutions for climate action.
Australia was the first country to contribute to the Commonwealth’s Climate Finance Access Hub. In a statement, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, reiterated the country’s unwavering commitment to advancing nature-based solutions.
Morrison said that Australians understood the need to act against climate change and get to net-zero by 2050, and the country had a plan to do it, and nature-based solutions were an essential part of this plan.
He stressed the significant benefits of adopting nature-based solutions such as reaching net-zero within a set timeline, boosting agricultural productivity, protecting biodiversity, and supporting communities and job opportunities.
Pohamba Penomwenyo Shifeta, Namibia’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, said Namibia was not far behind because the Southern Africa nation was implementing an interconnected approach to land management, climate change and biodiversity conservation.
“Namibia has so far accumulated significant knowledge and experience from ongoing projects and initiatives that can be scaled up to build resilience at the community level and ecosystems,” he said.
Scotland said the time to act was now – especially in light of the recent Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 1 contribution to the sixth assessment report, which “provides further irrefutable evidence of the immense threat confronting us all.”
She also spoke of the 2021 Emissions Gap report “released just last week and is yet another thundering reminder of the need to act urgently to curb emissions.”
In this regard, the high-level panel emphasised the urgent need to deploy an array of sustainable solutions to benefit people and the planet.
One approach, Scotland said, is through nature-based solutions, which offer a cost-effective way to simultaneously tackle the interlinked climate, biodiversity, and land degradation crisis.
Scotland said that is especially critical in the COVID-19 pandemic as the world strives to adopt blue and green recovery strategies.
Speakers called for coordinated and urgent action to boost biodiversity conservation, reduce land degradation, and enhance land-based climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts through sustainable development.
Participants heard that climate change amplifies biodiversity loss and land degradation. Despite nature-based solutions gaining visibility and traction across Commonwealth countries, there is still not enough up-take and, specifically, not enough financing to quiet nature’s wrath.
According to experts in a recent UN report titled ‘State of Finance for Nature’, $133 billion per year is directed towards nature-based solutions, representing 86 percent public financing and 14 percent private sector finance.
This falls significantly short of the annual investment required to meet cross-cutting targets under the three Rio Conventions targets on biodiversity, climate change, and desertification.
To meet these targets, estimates show that up to $8.1 trillion worth of investment in nature-based solutions was required, representing $536 billion worth of funding every year.
The UN experts say reaching an annual funding target of $536 billion translates to tripling investments by 2030 and quadrupling by 2050.
Climate financing experts this is possible and that these estimates are cost-effective. Benefits include nations being able to meet human needs such as food and water security and accelerate long-term social and economic development.
For instance, nature-based solutions can positively contribute 37 per cent of the mitigation effort required up to 2030 to limit temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. This is mainly within the agriculture, forestry, and land-use sectors as per 2019 estimates by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Nevertheless, there are critical steps in the right direction. In addition to Australia, the UK and current Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Chair-in-Office has committed to spending at least £3 billion worth of its international climate finance on nature-based solutions.
Under the Commonwealth Finance Access Hub, the Commonwealth Secretariat has already supported its member states to mobilise more than $44 million of climate financing, including for nature-based financing. More than $762 million worth of projects are in the pipeline.
Scotland said that there would be significant progress if every single member state who would wish to have a climate finance advisor were able to.
When curtains fall on COP26 Summit, experts say that protecting communities and natural habitats through concerted efforts towards the protection and restoration of ecosystems will be one of the critical goals.