Nature-based solutions key to combatting climate change and biodiversity loss, says Lords

Lord Patel said COP26 is “the perfect opportunity to highlight on the world stage the importance of nature-based solutions.” (image credit: ukhouseoflords, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license).

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has written to Alok Sharma MP, President for COP26, citing recent evidence gathered as part of the Committee’s ongoing inquiry into nature-based solutions for climate change.

Nature-based solutions are solutions to societal challenges that involve working with nature to better manage, protect, or restore ecosystems. For example the restoration of the UK’s degraded peatlands, which efficiently lock away carbon while hosting a unique array of biodiversity.

In their letter, the Committee urge the COP26 President to ensure that nature based-solutions, as part of the answer to mitigating and adapting to climate change, are included in the COP26 negotiations and final text.

The Committee highlight that nature-based solutions can help achieve multiple goals including to combat climate change and biodiversity loss, but only if they are well designed, financed appropriately and implemented in line with the following principles:

  • Nature-based solutions are not a substitute for rapid decarbonisation of all sectors of the economy
  • Nature-based solutions should involve a wide range of ecosystems on land and in the sea, not just tree-planting
  • Nature-based solutions should be designed and implemented in partnership with local communities and stakeholders
  • Nature-based solutions should provide measurable benefits to biodiversity.
  • Protection of existing ecosystems should be emphasised
  • Resilience must be a key factor in design and implementation
  • Any carbon benefits that are claimed must be rigorous in their accounting
  • Substantial financing and expertise should be provided by wealthy nations to poorer nations.

The Committee also warn that the risk, seen too often from governments historically, is that bold promises on restoring or conserving nature are not fulfilled. Pledges and financing risk being misdirected towards scientifically uncertain, poorly planned initiatives which have few lasting impacts other than to greenwash the activities of polluters. The Committee urges Parties at COP26 to include science-based targets and comprehensive plans for nature-based solutions in their Nationally Determined Contributions, in accordance with the guiding principles set out in the letter.

Chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Lord Patel said:

“The forthcoming COP26 in Glasgow presents the perfect opportunity to highlight on the world stage the importance of nature-based solutions as a way to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. But we need nature-based solutions that are about more than just planting trees or providing ways for companies to greenwash their reputation.

“In addition to acknowledging the role of nature-based solutions in the COP26 decision text, we urge Parties, including the UK, to enhance their ambition and to include nature-based solutions in their Nationally Determined Contributions alongside increased targets on emissions reductions.

“The UK’s domestic policies and negotiating stance should be an example to the world as we seek international action to restore and protect the home we share.”