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Nature for Life

24-28 September 2020 | Virtual

Highlights for Thursday, 24 September 2020

The Nature for Life Hub’s first day was organized under the theme of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sessions held during the day explored ways in which protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing nature can support achieving the SDGs, in particular relating to climate change, health, security, water, jobs and livelihoods.

Nature for Climate

Musicians perform the official UN Convention to Combat Desertification Land Anthem

The session on Nature for Climate emphasized the role of ecosystems in climate change mitigation, drawing attention to related opportunities and solutions, and showcasing efforts already undertaken by indigenous groups, local communities, academia, businesses, international organizations, and governments to place nature at the heart of climate action.

Key messages included:

  • forests and nature can deliver a third of the needed emission reductions, and reversing their degradation will be fundamental for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement;
  • natural climate solutions have moved to the center of the climate change debate, and they are increasingly understood to be an essential complement to decarbonization in climate action; and
  • nature-based solutions, however, have only received 3% of global climate finance.

The session opened with a performance of the Official UN Convention to Combat Desertification Land Anthem, composed by Land Ambassadors Ricky Kej and Baaba Maal. In opening remarks, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema shared a joint statement, in which they called for: placing nature at the heart of sustainable development; building a green, inclusive and circular economy; and mobilizing action from every corner of society.

On the need for higher ambition, Jennifer Morris, The Nature Conservancy, called for increased investments in natural climate solutions through mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund (GCF), stronger policies to incentivise private investments, and debt for nature swaps. Zac Goldsmith, Minister for Pacific and the Environment, UK, said his government will increase the share spent on nature-based solutions in its climate finance and invited countries to come to the climate COP 26 in Glasgow with “genuinely ambitious” new Paris Agreement nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO, the Global Environment Facility, called for: institutional reforms at the government level; finance from all sources; phasing down perverse incentives; and use of nature as a cost-effective way to deal with climate change and biodiversity loss, and support social development. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF, called for governments to mainstream nature-based solutions into their NDCs.

  • Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

In a series of short films, nature and forest stakeholders from all around the world highlighted their nature-based solutions. These included:

  • Global EverGreening Alliance, a community-based initiative to restore ecosystems and ensure healthy communities, and Indigenous Leadership Initiative, that focuses on protecting boreal forests in Canada through indigenous-led conservation;
  • NBS Platform in China, a public-private action platform that restores habitats, protects grasslands and livelihoods, and organizes academic conferences, among others;
  • Save Our Mangroves Now, a multi-organization campaign to protect mangroves, which can store three to five more carbon dioxide than terrestrial forest;
  • Global Forest Watch, an open-source web application to monitor global forests in near real-time;
  • A deforestation reduction project in Ecuador, which is the first project under the GCF to access results-based payments;
  • US Nature4Climate Coalition, which works with businesses delivering nature-based solutions, and Forest Finance Accelerator by not-for-profit organization Emergent, which catalyzes nature-based climate solutions for the private sector; and
  • Investment and banking sector companies Landscape Capital, Pollination Group, and Mastercard Priceless Planet Coalition working to deploy one billion USD over five years into forest conservation, mainstream natural capital as an asset class, and regrow 100 million trees over the next 5 years.

Closing the session, M. Sanjayan, Conservation International, said the world has woken up to the fact that nature underpins our economy and the spread of COVID-19 has confirmed that protecting nature is about protecting ourselves. The benefits from protecting nature are delivered immediately and accrued to locals, he reminded. He stressed as the necessary next steps: defunding deforestation; promoting equity and social justice; and prioritizing natural climate solutions in economic recovery.

Images from the Event

Video from the Event

Nature for Water

Panel on nature-based solutions for water (clockwise from top left): UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Audrey Azoulay; Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, the Netherlands; Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Agency; Eunice Heath, Dow; Elim Sritaba, Asia Pulp & Paper Sinar Mas; and moderator Kelly McEvers

The session on Nature for Water highlighted how nature-based solutions can build long-term water security. It included three panels that considered how, among other things: investing in nature supports resilience; nature-based solutions create co-benefits; working with multiple stakeholders and across jurisdictions adds value; nature can be integrated into water management; and how additional financing for nature-based solutions can be mobilized.

Key messages included:

  • Water is finite, but our need for it is growing – this relationship needs balancing.
  • Communities, cities, corporations, and other stakeholders are already engaging in activities that integrate nature-based solutions into water management while generating social and economic benefits.
  • Trust is a crucial element for ensuring acceptance for nature-based solutions that require investments, and a lot more can be accomplished when various stakeholders work together.
  • Further efforts are needed to: quantify the benefits of nature-based solutions to build an evidence base for support; nature-based solutions and “grey solutions” need to be assessed holistically; and enabling environments for nature-based solutions need to enhanced.

The session opened with an inspirational speech from ultra-marathoner Mina Guli, Thirst, who “runs for water,” calling on everyone to take action on water today.

On success stories from implementing nature-based solutions for water security, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Audrey Azoulay cited the organization’s hydroecological solutions, which aim to simultaneously ensure adequate water supplies, support food security, and minimize water-related disasters. Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Agency, explained that his state’s water resilience portfolio is built on lessons from other countries and regions that have dealt with drought and the recognition that there is no single silver bullet to ensure water reliability and natural safety. Xanthea Limburg, City of Cape Town, explained how the city’s water strategy builds on the experience of successfully avoiding “day zero” in 2018 (when the municipal water supply almost had to be cut off) and includes the principle of working with nature.

On ways to invest in nature, Elim Sritaba, Asia Pulp & Paper Sinar Mas, explained how her company’s peatlands management pilot project had employed nature-based solutions in restoration activities by taking a landscape perspective. Observing that investment in nature can also deliver financial returns, Eunice Heath, Dow, explained how the company had saved in USD 280 million in the form of flood protection through constructed tertiary treatment wetlands in Texas, US.

On the importance of engaging multiple stakeholders, Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, the Netherlands, noted that experience is as important as research and stressed the need to ensure a diversity of talent to deliver comprehensive solutions that add value across all SDGs. On community-based management, Srongpol Chantharueang, Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group, discussed how his community conserves the wetland through contributions from water uses and practices community-led governance. He expressed hope that other communities around the world accept similar approaches, noting that “nature will return its benefits to us.”

On integrating nature into water management, Ulrike Sapiro, The Coca-Cola Company, said that, of her company’s 300 water replenishment projects that seek to replenish all water the company uses in production processes globally, 230 are dedicated to working with nature. Kate Brauman, Global Water Initiative, stressed the need for local approaches, which can sometimes be based on indigenous knowledge. Stuart Orr, WWF, noted that projects that have been able to identify their benefits for society have done the best.

On mainstreaming nature-based solutions, Orr observed a growing interest from investors who see water scarcity-related risks affecting their assets, and pointed out that the growing attention to climate change has also been “an opportunity” as it forces a focus beyond borders and water management silos, on basins and watersheds.

On mobilizing additional financing for nature-based solutions, moderator Sophie Trémolet, The Nature Conservancy, identified a dearth of projects that can attract funding despite an interest from investors. The conversation centered on water users’ preparedness to pay. Stephen Hart, European Investment Bank, suggested customers are willing to accept investments in nature, highlighting how utilities in some countries have been able to implement conservation projects due to the trust they have built with consumers.

As constraints to mobilizing financing, Gilles Kleitz, French Development Agency, identified a lack of: technical and performance standards for nature-based solutions; active dialogue with consultancies on performance; and rigorous financing models for NBS.

Closing the session, Andrea Erickson-Quiroz, The Nature Conservancy, called on everyone to “restore, regenerate and reconnect to nature.”

Images from the Event

Videos from the Event

Event Resource

IISD/ENB Meeting Coverage

IISD Resources