Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change: From California to Spain to Scotland
December 17, 2020
by Mani Oliva, CEO
It’s hard to believe that at this time last year I was halfway around the world in Madrid, Spain. I had the privilege of being there along with Dr. Libby Porzig, our Working Lands program Director, and Geoff Gordon-Creed, the Chair of our Board, to represent Point Blue at the annual UN Climate Change negotiations. One of the highlights for me was attending Libby’s presentation on our work in partnership with farmers and ranchers across California to advance regenerative agriculture as a nature-based solution to fight climate change. It seems like a lifetime ago. Yet at the same time, the image of Libby surrounded by leading scientists, policy makers, and practitioners who were asking and discussing how our work could be adapted in their countries to fight climate change is still vivid in my mind.
This year has been a first on so many levels. For the first time in its 26 year history, this year’s annual global climate change conference was cancelled. This doesn’t mean that the work has stopped, the need is too great, and as we look to a new year we are offering our science, our optimism and a plan. The work on the ground, in the lab, and in legislative halls across the world continues, because warming temperatures and loss of critical biodiversity and ecosystems continue. In fact, this past weekend (December 12) on the 5th year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, the leading governments, businesses and civil society groups who would normally attend the in person climate change conference joined virtually as part of the Climate Ambition Summit. This conference was not only important as a powerful recommitment to collective global action to fight climate change, but also because it continued to recognize and elevate nature-based solutions as critical in confronting both the climate and biodiversity crises. And as the U.S. government moves to rejoin the global effort to fight climate change early next year, I am optimistic that we will build off of this new energy.
As we look towards a new year of promise, and the next round of climate change negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland at the end of November 2021 (which we plan on attending), we at Point Blue are actively mapping the course to increase the use of nature-based solutions as a powerful tool to lower greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change. Nature-based solutions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems, as well as address societal challenges effectively and adaptively. Our road map consists of four elements:
- It starts with people – Advance the concept that community-based stewardship increases the durability of nature-based solutions and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Engage local stakeholders and communities in nature-based stewardship through collaborative and benefit sharing models that increase adoption and success of restoration and management actions.
- Build upon existing foundations – Integrate climate action commitments with existing support and incentive structures. Many government agencies and non-governmental organizations are already promoting climate-beneficial land management practices. Co-developing these strategies (e.g., national and subnational governments with civil society and private sector) can help ensure that efforts are synergistic and can jump start pathways toward action.
- Prioritize outcomes over practices – Incentivizing practices alone can result in inflexibility and inefficiency because they might not be adaptable to local conditions and their implementation does not guarantee achieving the desired outcomes. In many cases incentivizing the outcomes of increased ecosystem carbon instead of specific practices can support more flexible adaptive approaches which can in turn lead to better outcomes. Prioritizing outcomes also creates a better environment for fostering creativity and innovation.
- Evaluate multiple benefits and tradeoffs – We recommend policies, programs, and projects that simultaneously promote greenhouse gas sequestration outcomes simultaneously with other benefits, including food production, water quality and availability, and biodiversity conservation.
In the new year we will continue to share our science in partnership with other leading voices across California to elevate our collective work across the state and usher a new campaign for nature-based solutions to fight climate change and support healthy ecosystems. All in service of Point Blue’s organizational vision: achieving thriving wildlife and human communities. And we can’t wait to bring this momentum to the global climate change community in Glasgow.