Nature’s ascension to the world’s stage.
Robert Winch, Senior ESG Consultant
To nurture nature.
COP26 feels like a distant memory with the climate and biodiversity emergency having been overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the revolving door installed at Number 10, and a cost-of-living crisis. Casting our memories back we can recall the sense of disappointment COP ended on, a consequence of initial ambitions being scaled back and a tearful Alok Sharma.
For nature, only one notable outcome can be derived. This was a commitment made by 137 countries to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”. The pledge was backed by $12bn in public and $7.2bn in private funding. It was further supported by the CEOs of more than 30 financial institutions with over $8.7 trillion of global assets committing to eliminating investment in activities linked to deforestation.
This year’s COP27 will be hosted in Egypt, a country sitting within a continent home to 30% of the world’s biodiversity and an accelerated growth trajectory. Historically the latter degrades the former.
Globally nature continues to be on a downward trajectory, the WWF and Zoological Society London’s Living Planet Report found that wildlife populations have dropped by 69% since 1970, this figure was 68% two years ago and 60% four years ago.
COP27 has not set out any clear ambitions for nature, the focus is on tackling climate change. However, this cannot be achieved without protecting and restoring the Earth’s natural carbon sinks.
Nature4Climate claim that nature could reduce atmospheric carbon by 11Gt per year, which is roughly one-third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to stick to 1.5oC.
Several nature focused organisations, including the National Geographic Society, are calling for at least 30% of the planet to be protected by 2030. In the absence of legal structures to achieve the pace of natural restoration needed some businesses are reinventing their purpose. The cosmetics company Faith in Nature has appointed nature to its board of directors to give the natural world a legal say in its business strategy. Similarly, the clothing brand Patagonia has made “Earth” its only shareholder, meaning the money Patagonia make each year after reinvestments are distributed as dividends to help fight the climate and biodiversity crisis.
The UK’s built environment sector is undergoing its own transformation to revalue nature. From November 2023 all new developments will be required to create a 10% biodiversity net gain, a target many Local Authorities are requiring to be exceeded. This legal mandate is encouraging developers and asset owners to maximise the benefits nature can create in the built environment from uplifting people’s mental and physical health to saving energy and sequestering carbon.
COP27 will be followed this year by COP15 in Montreal, this bringing together of nations is centred around the purpose of negotiating a new global framework for nature which mimics the approach of the Paris Climate Agreement. It is hoped that this will provide a clear goal for countries, businesses, and individuals to work towards protecting and restoring the natural world.