Inger Anderson speaks to the United Nations in New York on how nature will help reverse climate change.
World leaders will meet at the United Nations in New York at the Climate Action Summit convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Ms Inger Andersen will be at the summit to promote the idea of nature-based solutions for combating climate change.
UNEP supports one of the nine Summit tracks designated by the Secretary-General under the leadership of the Governments of China and New Zealand.
UN Info asked Ms Andersen how nature can help reverse climate change.
What do we mean by a solution based on nature?
Nature-based solutions are actions that protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, which also address societal challenges, thus simultaneously providing benefits in terms of human well-being and biodiversity. So, whether it’s for food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk or economic development, nature can help us find a way.
And climate change is a very important part of the solution. There are many ways to fight climate change, but one of the most effective and immediate methods is to use what is on our doorstep: nature.
For example, nature-based solutions can aim to reduce emissions from deforestation and agricultural practices and enhance the capacity of natural ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Remember that it is carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit provides a timely opportunity to propel nature-based solutions to the forefront of climate action.
What range of solutions are available?
Most nature-based climate change solutions come from strengthening or restoring existing natural ecosystems.
For example, forests do not only absorb carbon, they also protect us from its most devastating impacts. Carefully planted tree species can serve as firebreaks, keeping trees close to farmland can protect crops from erosive forces from heavy rains, and forests can mitigate land floods through the way they are managed. absorb water. Mangroves are effective and inexpensive natural barriers to coastal flooding and shoreline erosion. The restoration of peatlands and other natural ecosystems is also an effective solution based on nature.
Simply changing our land practices could reduce emissions by 30% to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by 2030.
What is their effectiveness and what is the financial cost?
Nature is available now and we should use it. No fast technological solution has the same impact as nature-based solutions. In fact, these solutions could generate more than a third of the necessary emissions reductions worldwide by 2030.
Crucially, there is an urgent need for increased investment to unleash the potential of nature. Currently, these solutions receive less than 3% of available climate finance, although they are extremely cost-effective. And, they offer a very high return on investment, potentially adding billions of dollars to the global economy. For example, the construction of the Great Wall, an ambitious project to reverse desertification in the Sahel region of Africa, could create 10 million jobs in this region by 2030 and have other benefits, including a slowdown in the migration.
These solutions must be integrated into climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. At the global level, governments must align their efforts and commit to investing in these solutions as part of their national policies.
What is the importance of nature-based solutions in the global fight against climate change?
We can not limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2 degrees Celsius) without natural climatic solutions. Nature-based solutions have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12 gigatonnes per year. That is roughly equivalent to the emissions of all the coal plants in the world.
At the same time, it is important to bear in mind, first of all, that growing ambition forces us to engage simultaneously in an energy transition and larger investments in nature. And second, if we do not act now on nature, its ability to protect humanity will diminish even more.
Nature is there as a solution for climate action, but we must seize the moment. The good news is that nature forgives us and it is time for us to give it the chance it deserves.
Are there enough projects currently around the world to make a difference?
We are in a time of global urgency, but also in an era of unprecedented momentum. Young people are demanding accountability and every week a government is committed to climate action. Nature-based solutions are immediately available, cost-effective and can be expanded as needed. And all the countries of the world can act.
And we have many success stories. When the Great Green Wall is completed by 2030, the restored land will absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to having all California cars in the parking lot for 3 ½ years. In Niger, farmers’ reforestation has improved forest cover, reducing women’s firewood collection time from three hours to 30 minutes. And the city of Medellin , Colombia, has reduced temperatures by over 2 degrees Celsius by turning its concrete jungles into urban forests.
We must therefore intensify such initiatives, take advantage of the political momentum and achieve results at the speed and pace necessary to overcome the ambitions of the Paris Agreement . Indeed, when we give nature a chance, we have a better chance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.