The huge forest fires raging across many countries send a clear signal — we need to keep our natural ecosystems intact or risk losing the fight against the climate emergency. Indeed, the IPCC 1.5 report was unequivocal: we cannot keep global warming below 1.5°C without tackling the crisis facing nature. ECO notes the buzzword “nature-based solutions” is flying around, looking to collect sweet nectar from fruitful coffers, and pollinating colourful blossoms galore. But we also note that the term “nature-based solutions” lacks clear definitions or criteria and can include activities that do nothing to advance real climate solutions. This has prompted ECO to take the opportunity to use specific language on the role ecosystems play in addressing the climate crisis, and how they can be protected and restored to achieve emissions reductions, enhanced resilience, and biodiversity protection:
The role of ecosystems in climate ambition is not an excuse for greenwashing or continued BAU — we must keep fossil fuels in the ground at all costs.
We need to prioritise the protection and restoration of our natural ecosystems, including primary forests and other intact ecosystems and those still rich in carbon and biodiversity. They are irreplaceable for stable carbon storage and for biodiversity, and we simply cannot afford their continued loss or degradation.
When it comes to trees, we need to be thinking about the “right tree in the right place”, in other words, native species. But it’s more than trees and forests. Other ecosystems are vitally important too: peatlands, wetlands, grasslands, mangroves, and marine ecosystems.
Ecosystem protection and restoration will yield even more benefits for our planet and society if implemented in close partnership with the guardians of these ecosystems: Indigenous People and local communities. Securing community and indigenous land rights is key to the sustainable management of many ecosystems.
Urgent action is needed: without protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and improving land management we will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5°C. These actions would enhance our resilience to increasing climate impacts, reduce the risks of floods and fires, and help stop the catastrophic loss of biodiversity. The IPCC Special Reports on 1.5°C, Land and Oceans & Cryosphere and the IPBES Global Assessment highlight the urgent need to transform our relationship with land, oceans, and our food systems, and to safeguard our natural ecosystems.
We call on parties to raise ambition with clear commitments to ensure that natural ecosystems are part of the solution to the climate crisis. The first step is for parties to specify in their enhanced NDCs, by 2020, how they will reduce emissions and enhance resilience through protecting and restoring terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and to reflect these and further actions in their Long Term Strategies.