Global Climate Change Scenario
Multilateral agreements, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, recognize the need to mitigate climate change (UNFCCC). However, we are collectively on track to miss the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, as well as the biodiversity targets of the CBD. So far, human activities have caused the global average temperature to rise nearly 1.1°C above 1850-1900 levels. If we continue on our current trajectory, the 1.5°C limit will most likely be exceeded within the next 20 years. If the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided, immediate and far-reaching action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate CO2 of the atmosphere is required. According to the 2020 Emissions Gap Report, countries need to triple their mitigation aspirations to meet the 2°C target, and more than quintuple to meet the 1.5°C target.
Mitigation potential of ecosystems and climate
Ecosystems as diverse as forests, grasslands, wetlands, grasslands, coastal and marine ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass beds, kelp beds and coral reefs), and even urban green spaces, managed lands including tree plantations and agricultural farms when healthy, act as a carbon sink that absorbs a large amount of CO2 emissions. On the other hand, when these ecosystems deteriorate under the effect of anthropogenic pressure and/or climate change, they become a source of active carbon. To minimize releases of emissions from ecosystems, steps must be taken to keep existing ecosystems and the carbon they contain intact. This means halting the loss and degradation of nature, eliminating deforestation from supply chains and preventing loss and damage to other ecosystems. To improve carbon uptake by these ecosystems, large-scale ecosystem restorations must be undertaken, as soon as possible.
Ecosystem restoration is defined as a process of reversing the degradation of ecosystems, such as landscapes, lakes and oceans to regain their ecological functionality; in other words, improving the productivity and capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of society. According to estimates by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), restoring ecosystems could remove up to 26 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, making environmental rehabilitation and restoration nature a crucial strategy to curb climate change. The potential to protect, restore and use ecosystems as tools to combat climate change has gained popularity within the broad/global framework of NBS.
Nature-Based Solutions (NbS)
According to As defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation include actions (i) aimed at protecting natural ecosystems from loss and degradation (forests, grasslands, peat bogs, mangroves, etc.); (ii) restore ecosystems that have been degraded, and (iii) sustainably manage working lands such as agricultural fields and managed forests. Nature-based solutions that are well-designed and implemented provide several benefits, enabling synergies and reducing trade-offs in pursuit of various global development goals, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature-based solutions can simultaneously address societal challenges, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, natural disasters, human health, food and water security, and biodiversity loss.
NBS correspond to management approaches that develop sustainable and multifunctional ecosystems, benefits and landscapes. The Nbs is an umbrella concept and includes the following activities.
- Restoration and protection of natural forests, improved management of existing forests and planting of trees on degraded or agricultural land. As trees and other forest plants grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in living plants, dead organic matter and soils. Regeneration of natural forests can sequester carbon at an estimated rate of 3.16 to 3.58 megatonnes of carbon per hectare per year.
- Restoring coastal and marine ecosystems can sequester large amounts of carbon. Many coastal and marine habitats, including salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses, are carbon-rich and have high rates of carbon sequestration, and on average store carbon faster (2-4 times) per unit area, and more reliably for longer periods. time, than terrestrial forests.
- Adopting nature-based agriculture increases the carbon sequestration potential of farmland, which includes replacing inorganic and synthetic fertilizers with organic ones, reducing tillage, and diversifying crop species and uncultivated on agricultural land. Besides carbon sequestration, these practices have the added benefits of improved pest control and pollination, as well as improved soil fertility and nutrient cycling.
- Restoration of degraded peatlands; anoxic conditions in the peatland landscape prevent the decomposition of organic matter and trap carbon for millennia. Although peatlands cover only 3% of the Earth’s land surface, they account for 21% of the world’s soil organic carbon.
- The restoration and creation of natural habitats within it holds great potential to improve the quality of life of city dwellers, while contributing to carbon sequestration. Urban NBS come in a variety of shapes and include green roofs and green walls, created wetlands, urban agriculture, street trees and parks – often known collectively as urban green and blue infrastructure.
NbS and Carbon Credits
Voluntary carbon trading markets are booming due to growing global demand for carbon offsets generated by nature-based solutions (NbS) and are expected to reach $50 billion in 2030 to help limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius. Since NbS sequesters carbon, it can be used to “offset” emissions produced by other means. Carbon offsetting is a legitimate method of financing NBS, and it can play an important role on the path to net zero emissions. More than 600 companies have set voluntary goals of net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, with many planning to achieve at least some emission reductions with offset credits from agricultural, forestry or industrial projects. land use.
Under the Voluntary Carbon Standards, robust and carefully reviewed quantification methodologies supported by scientists are available to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions or sequestration potential to generate tradable carbon credits for all mitigation project activities mentioned above. Carbon credits are measurable and verifiable reductions, removals or units of avoided emissions from approved climate change mitigation programs. Before carbon credits are issued, these projects must meet a rigorous set of requirements and safeguards that must be verified by third-party auditors and reviewed by voluntary carbon standards.
To ensure that NBS are effective at sequestering and storing carbon over the long term, they must be carefully designed for each specific context, informed by the best possible science and local and indigenous knowledge. This is also necessary to ensure that NbS does not have negative social, ecological and biophysical side effects. In the past, poorly implemented NbS have led to land grabs, human rights abuses, biodiversity loss and water shortages. However, well-planned NbS can act as a positive force for nature and local people, while also mitigating climate change.
The United Nations estimates that the $9 trillion restoration of 350 million hectares of different landscapes and ecosystems by 2030 will improve rural economies and remove an additional 13 to 26 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. . To reach the restoration goal that the UN has set for this decade, $800 billion will be needed, a figure which, although it may seem very high, is equivalent to less than two years of fossil fuel subsidies. . To achieve maximum effectiveness, NbS frameworks with consistent policy and incentives across all relevant NbS areas, stakeholders and levels of NbS governance should be established.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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