Story | 05 Nov, 2021

To keep global warming below 1.5°C, a significant contribution from Nature-based Solutions is necessary and possible: report by UNEP and IUCN

Strong safeguards and additional finance will be required.

Gland/Nairobi, 5 November 2021. Analysing scientific literature, the new report by UNEP and IUCN finds that Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can deliver emission reductions and removals of at least 5 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, and at least 10 gigatons by 2050 on a conservative basis. The report highlights that this contribution from nature, in addition to the rapid decarbonisation of the global economy, can play a significant role in reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C. To fulfil this potential, NbS require additional funding and must be implemented according to strict standards.

content hero image

Nature-based Solutions, including forest landscape restoration approaches, can contribute significantly to climate change mitigation if they adhere to the IUCN Global Standard for NbS and are funded appropriately.

Photo: Carig Beatty/IUCN

Gland/Nairobi, 5 November 2021 (IUCN) - Analysing scientific literature, the report by UNEP and IUCN finds that Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can deliver emission reductions and removals of at least 5 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, and at least 10 gigatons by 2050 on a conservative basis. The report highlights that this contribution from nature, in addition to the rapid decarbonisation of the global economy, can play a significant role in reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C. To fulfil this potential, NbS require additional funding and must be implemented according to strict standards.

The new report, “Nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation”, authored by experts from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), analyses and summarises existing peer-reviewed literature and other published sources on the potential of Nature-based Solutions to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere.

NbS that can help mitigate climate change include actions to protect natural ecosystems from loss and degradation, restore ecosystems that have been degraded, and more sustainably manage working lands such as fields and managed forests.

Interpreting the existing scientific evidence cautiously, and taking into account associated uncertainties as well as the time needed to deploy safeguards, the report finds that by 2030, nature-based solutions implemented across all ecosystems can deliver emission reductions and removals of at least 5 GtCO2e per year, with a maximum estimate of 11.7 GtCO2e per year. By 2050, this rises to at least 10 GtCO2e per year, of a maximum estimate of 18 GtCO2e per year.

The largest share of this contribution (circa 62 per cent) is estimated to come from nature-based solutions related to forests, with circa 24 per cent from solutions in grasslands and croplands, and 10 per cent from additional solutions in peatlands. The remaining 4 per cent will come from solutions implemented in coastal and marine ecosystems.

For nature-based solutions to deliver their potential benefits, they will have to be implemented fairly and equitably, upholding the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and in a way that respects strict social and environmental safeguards to avoid harm, for instance through adherence to the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based SolutionsTM.

The contribution from nature-based solutions needs additional finance. This will require action by and close coordination between both public and private actors. It is essential that where the private sector purchases Nature-based Solutions offsets as part of their pathways to achieve net zero, these offsets not only be in accordance with social and environmental safeguards, but that they form a small part of a mitigation strategy focused primarily on deep decarbonisation. The development of rules and guidance in this area is now underway.

One example of such an effort is the Green Gigaton Challenge (launched in November 2020 by UNEP, UN-REDD, Emergent, Forest Trends, Environmental Defense Fund and Architecture of REDD+ Transactions) to mobilize resources to finance one gigaton of high-quality emission reductions from forests by 2025 through a coalition of private and public sector actors as well as civil society.

While the report’s focus is on the significance of the role of nature-based solutions in climate mitigation, it also highlights that, when done well, these can deliver other critical benefits, including for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation. It also stresses that Nature-based Solutions must not be seen in isolation. Achieving the Paris Agreement goal will require, above all, a rapid, ambitious and sustained abatement of fossil fuels and other industrial emissions, as called for by the latest science. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,  which has the aim to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide between 2021 and 2030, will provide vital support and coordination to the transparent scaling up of Nature-based Solutions.

Contacts:

IUCN: 

press@iucn.org

sandeep.sengupta@iucn.org 

UNEP:

Barney.Dickson@un.org

Florian.Eisele@un.org

About IUCN

IUCN is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.

Created in 1948, IUCN is now the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network, harnessing the knowledge, resources and reach of more than 1,500 Member organisations and some 18,000 experts. It is a leading provider of conservation data, assessments and analysis. Its broad membership enables IUCN to fill the role of incubator and trusted repository of best practices, tools and international standards.

IUCN provides a neutral space in which diverse stakeholders including governments, NGOs, scientists, businesses, local communities, indigenous peoples organisations and others can work together to forge and implement solutions to environmental challenges and achieve sustainable development.

Working with many partners and supporters, IUCN implements a large and diverse portfolio of conservation projects worldwide. Combining the latest science with the traditional knowledge of local communities, these projects work to reverse habitat loss, restore ecosystems and improve people’s well-being.

www.iucn.org

About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP):

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising future generations.

UNEP@50: A time to reflect on the past and envision the future 

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first-ever UN conference with the word “environment” in its title. The creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was one of the most visible outcomes of this conference of many firsts. UNEP was created quite simply to be the environmental conscience of the UN and the world. Activities taking place through 2022 will look at significant progress made as well as what’s ahead in decades to come. 

About UNEP-WCMC:

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is a global centre of excellence on biodiversity, operating as a collaboration between UN Environment Programme and the charity WCMC. UNEP-WCMC works on the interface of science, policy, and practice to help tackle the global nature crisis.