Nathalie Seddon opened the conference by posing the critical question of our time: how do we solve the interlinked crises of climate change and biodiversity loss while also increasing the quality of life for all beings on the planet? She highlighted how, against the backdrop of a pandemic, supply chain crises, climate change impacts and war, there is a ‘glimmer of hope’ in the form of nature-based solutions (NbS). However, despite growing uptake and evidence supporting their effectiveness, there are growing tensions about the term NbS, in particular its association with greenwashing, land grabs, and distraction from systemic change. The goal of the NbS Conference 2022 was to address these concerns and to establish how we can work to ensure that NbS support thriving human societies and ecosystems, without compromising efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Lord Zac Goldsmith reminded us that we are setting out to tackle the biggest challenge the world is facing and that the demand for real change is huge. He pointed out how “everything we need to do is being done by someone somewhere”, so we need to use these islands of the best examples of best practices, and share them and scale them up. Lord Goldsmith stated “I cannot see any future climate conference moving forward without nature-based solutions”, and that the biodiversity COP15 in December needs to be a ‘Paris’ moment for nature.
Inger Andersen noted that the world is finally beginning to see that the climate and biodiversity crises are fundamentally interlinked, as are planetary health and human health and wellbeing. COP26 was the first time that nature was high on the agenda in a climate COP, with important commitments for governments to protect and restore forests globally, as well as new pledges for support for the role of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. She emphasised the importance of increasing finance, particularly private finance, towards NbS, while guarding against greenwashing and ensuring rapid decarbonisation of our economies.
“We can’t have the public sector investing the taxpayers money into nature, and the private [sector] investing in its destruction”
We urgently need to shift harmful subsidies to become nature-positive subsidies. Inger ended with a plea that if we back NbS, then human and nature can once again become allies and thrive for centuries to come.
The Day 1 Keynote speaker, Pamela McElwee, asked how we can move from a discussion centering around the potential of Nbs, as this has now become well-established, to more productive conversations around the pragmatic implementation of NbS, including the ‘how’, the ‘where’ and the ‘who’. She asked, “How do we institutionalise NbS as the default?”. The keynote address introduced the themes of trade-offs, values and governance, as well as the hot topics of financing, nexus issues, and transformative change. There are many biophysical and social trade-offs across the biodiversity-climate nexus, and these must be made explicit.
“Just about everything we do for biodiversity is generally good for the climate, but the same cannot be said for the reverse. A lot of things we might do for climate have negative biodiversity outcomes” – Pamela McElwee
We must deepen our understanding of how costs and benefits are shared between stakeholders, and a plurality of values, local indicators and benefits need to be better incorporated in how we share NbS. There is a need for more research and literature on NbS for nexus issues (the nexus of water, food, energy, health, in relation to biodiversity and climate), where siloed governmental institutions can be a significant barrier to successful integration. Finally, many unanswered questions remain with regards to NbS financing, including how to move past the missed opportunity of using covid recovery packages to include NbS, to now utilising positive tipping points to enact equitable transformative change.
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Minister for Pacific and the Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK Government
The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park is the Minister for Pacific and the Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). He was first appointed as a Minister of State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and Defra on 13 February 2020. He was previously Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and at the Department for International Development from 10 September 2019 to 13 February 2020 and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and at the Department for International Development on 27 July 2019 and 10 September 2019.
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)Nature for society
Inger Andersen is Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Between 2015 and 2019, Ms. Andersen was the Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Ms. Andersen has more than 30 years of experience in international development economics, environmental sustainability, strategy and operations. Between 1999 and 2014, Ms. Andersen held several leadership positions at the World Bank including Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa; Vice President for Sustainable Development and Head of the CGIAR Fund Council. Prior to her 15 years at the World Bank, Ms. Andersen worked 12 years at the United Nations, first on drought and desertification, beginning with the UN Sudano-Sahelian Office. In 1992, she was appointed UNDP’s Water and Environment Coordinator for the Arab Region.
Professor of Human Ecology at Rutgers UniversityEnsuring NbS for the Biodiversity-Climate-Society Nexus
Pamela McElwee is Professor of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. She has served as a lead author for the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land and is a co-chair of the upcoming IPBES “nexus” assessment on the interlinkages between biodiversity, water, food, climate and health. She is also co-lead of the Thematic Group on Cultural Practices and Ecosystem Management for the Commission on Ecosystem Management, IUCN.