Piecing together the case for nature-based solutions and the Paris Agreement

There is indisputable evidence that achieving global climate objectives requires nature-based solutions. In light of the most recent climate science, and in preparation for the development of new or revision of existing national climate targets under the Paris Agreement, IUCN engaged at COP24 in Poland by emphasising the need for integrated land use practices and the potential of the forest landscape restoration approach to enable greater climate ambition and action.

blue sky and green tree left versus hot sun and desert on right

Negotiations in Poland at the UNFCCC COP24 focused on a set of decisions required to operationalise the Paris Agreement – the Katowice Climate Package – amid recent jarring national and global assessments on climate change and the urgency for greater levels of ambition to tackle it. During COP24, IUCN mobilised its unique convening power to bring members and partners together to showcase how nature-based solutions, such as the forest landscape restoration approach, are available and essential strategies for achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement – aimed at limiting global average temperature increase to well below 2˚C, while increasing the ability of countries to adapt through low-greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.

Building low carbon and climate resilient landscapes

In collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme, WWF, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the government of Norway, IUCN took the lead in organising the Marrakesh Partnership event on forests and land: Building Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Landscapes. This event brought together for the first time under the Marrakesh Partnership, a joint discussion on climate action in the forests and land use sector, demonstrating a shift in global narratives toward the importance of integrated nature-based solutions to climate change.

By recognising the complex nature of the governance transformations needed to reduce emissions and enhance land-based carbon sequestration through changing the way we manage our land, and produce and consume food and other land-use-based commodities, the event brought together experts and high-level representatives from the public and private sectors to reflect on progress toward achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The event showcased encouraging initiatives:

  • The State of Yucatan, Mexico, has begun implementing an investment plan to tackle forest loss and degradation through public-private partnerships.
  • Through the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, Ghana is already catalysing public-private collaboration in partnership with Cote d’Ivoire and 30 companies to halt deforestation from cocoa production throughout forest and agricultural landscapes.
  • El Salvador continues to champion forest landscape restoration, demonstrating how nature-based solutions can maximise synergies between mitigation and adaptation while simultaneously meeting its commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Bonn Challenge. Improved territorial planning and cross-sectoral coordination under the Ecosystem and Landscapes Restoration Roundtable have allowed El Salvador to bring over 108,000 hectares of degraded lands into restoration with mitigation benefits of over 531,321 tCO2e sequestered through improved land uses, and enhanced resilience in over 30,000 hectares of key biodiversity areas.
  • Indigenous peoples’ representatives from the Amazon Basin are engaging in the Talanoa Dialogue, bringing concrete understanding in their roles to collaborate with national governments for implementing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  • In Argentina, the Regional Consortium for Agriculture is uniting over 2000 producers to partner with Buenos Aires, other municipalities, banks, universities, and global companies like Patagonia to decrease emissions from production, and to incentivise others to increase their climate ambitions.
  • The World Farmers Organization launched a climate change action plan, confirming their member organisations’ commitments to multi-stakeholder approaches to guide climate action by farmers.

Forest landscape restoration and climate change ambition   

As part of the Global Landscape Forum’s thematic event, Climate Action in the Landscape, IUCN led a discussion forum that brought together representatives from the public and private sectors to discuss progress, opportunities and challenges to advancing nature-based solutions and forest landscape restoration as part of their efforts to meet the global objectives of the Paris Agreement. Drawing from their experience in developing climate change mitigation strategies under REDD+, Ecuador and El Salvador reflected on the role of nature-based solutions and the restoration of forest landscapes in their future NDCs, while considering the needs, opportunities and remaining barriers for the definition of science-based, actionable and measurable targets towards meeting the 1.5˚C objective of the Paris Agreement.

All speakers underscored the importance of trade-offs between land uses across landscapes in a comprehensive and integrated manner, not only for policy alignment, but for developing optimal transition and business models for low-emissions, and resilient food and commodity production systems. Understanding trade-offs is also essential for leveraging blended finance to scale-up land-use transformations like forest landscape restoration, as emphasised by Climate Focus when reflecting on the case of cocoa production under the Cocoa and Forests Initiative in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Link to the full panel discussion

It was widely acknowledged that improving national capacities to fully capture the carbon storage and carbon sequestration potential of the land sector beyond reduced deforestation – to include land uses that provide nature-based solutions like forest landscape restoration – will be essential for the definition of more ambitious, science-based and actionable land-based targets in 2020 NDCs.

IUCN will continue to work with its members and partners to highlight the value of nature-based solutions as a logical component of efforts for fulfilling the objectives of the Paris Agreement.


For a complete summary of IUCN’s climate change engagement, see Climate Change Bulletin 2018  

Article contributors: Maria Garcia Espinosa and Corbett Nash

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