by Shazre Quamber-Hill, Director, Network Strategy and Impact, Resilience First

This article is an excerpt from a more comprehensive discussion on the significance of COP15 and the role that the UNFCC High Level Climate Champions can play in putting a spotlight on the biodiversity conservation agenda. Read the full article here.

Human actions, and in particular economic activity, is changing the world’s climate with devastating impacts to both natural and human systems everywhere. As the latest report from the IPCC demonstrates, even with immediate drastic CO2 emission reduction, certain levels of impact — particularly contributing to eco-system disruption and severe weather — are locked into the system and will only be exacerbated by additions to the planet’s cumulative CO2.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report (2020), more than half the world’s GDP ($44tn) is at risk of disruption due to nature loss. All sectors, from fishing and agriculture to construction and pharmaceuticals, have a significant interest in protecting nature due to the huge value that they derive from natural capital. Nature-positive business models on the other hand, have the potential to generate $10 trillion in annual business opportunities and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

Furthermore, businesses do not exist in isolation from the communities within which they operate, all of which depend on a healthy ecosystem for their survival and wellbeing. The cost of ignoring these impacts is simply too high, whichever way businesses look at it. There is therefore an increasing demand, from customers, investors and regulators alike for business leaders to play a critical role in the global efforts to protect and restore nature. Businesses can put nature at the heart of their decision making through:

  • Understanding the risks of, effectively disclosing and positively adapting to the impacts of climate change to ensure business continuity and the uninterrupted flow of goods and services
  • Effectively manage transition risks by incorporating nature-based solutions in their adaptation planning
  • Recognising and acting upon business’ responsibility to minimise biodiversity loss and positively contribute to conservation efforts, to harness the opportunities presented by a thriving and healthy ecosystem

Businesses that recognise the opportunities in early adoption of nature and climate positive strategies, can increase stakeholder confidence by reducing transition risks and delivering innovation that enhances not only their individual resilience, but works in harmony to positively impact the system as a whole.

Underestimating the true value of natural capital

The failure to effectively communicate the systemic and interconnected series of risks posed by a rapidly declining ecosystem has resulted in what can only be described as a market failure that does not accurately capture the true value of natural capital and of investing in nature-first resilience building.

Until very recently, the truly finite nature of natural resources and the rate at which these were being depleted was not properly understood. Simultaneously, the incredible value generated by and from natural capital was difficult to measure in monetary terms resulting in little incentive for businesses to take a genuinely climate positive and nature-first approach in their planning and operations.

Nature is vital for building resilient communities

Nature is essential to human life, and its maintenance and protection is vital for building resilient communities. An effective natural climate solution manages risks and enhances the resilience of the whole system. It should have a positive impact on business operations, facilitate the smooth, uninterrupted functioning of society, and contribute to biodiversity conservation.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) weave natural features or processes into the built environment to promote resilience and climate adaptation. They have been proven to offer significant financial and non-quantifiable advantages, often at a lower cost than traditional infrastructure. These practices are increasingly popular in the design of new infrastructure projects. For example, developers in England are required to quantify and mitigate the biodiversity impact of new projects, and Nature England created a toolkit to help them navigate this regulatory requirement.

For Nature-based Solutions to become truly mainstream, innovation from industries will need to be accelerated by effective, nature-positive regulation that incentivises investment in regenerative products and services. Frameworks such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures and Science Based Targets Network provide important guidance for companies to assess impacts and dependencies and are a significant step forward. Further positive changes in policies, regulation and market expectations, accompanied by impactful communication around this topic will be critical to accelerating progress.

Urgent, systems-wide transformations

Managing the climate crisis requires a holistic, long-term approach and systemswide transformation. While the 2015 Paris Agreement was a landmark moment and has accelerated our collective action to slow down and manage the impacts of climate change, the role of biodiversity in the mitigation of and adapting to climate change does not appear to have been given its due consideration in public debate. Nature is still largely seen as a ‘carbon sink’. With more than half the world’s GDP at risk as a result of biodiversity loss, a Nature focused conference like COP15 allows this issue to take centre stage and bring to the table the kind of ambitious agreement (such as the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework) that is necessary to bring about the urgent, systems-wide transformations needed to mitigate and manage the compounded impacts of climate change and bio-diversity loss.