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Nature is non-negotiable for Net Zero

October 14, 2021
Why we need nature for net zero

As the world prepares for a fortnight of discussion, debate and policy negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow next month, one fact is beyond dispute: The preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems is essential in order to achieve net zero.

Nature is the original carbon regulator and the world’s largest carbon sink. Yet valuable natural ecosystems continue to be destroyed at a terrifying rate, while the nature-based solutions designed to protect them suffer from ongoing controversy, distrust and underfunding.

Global emissions continue to rise and the need to protect nature has become more urgent than ever. It is now imperative that action is taken quickly to catalyze billions of dollars of investment into nature-based projects.

As COP26 approaches, we’re driving a dialogue about the challenges that are holding the market back and the solutions that can mobilize the funding that is urgently needed.

Why nature?

With over 2,000 Gigatonnes of carbon stored in the world’s trees, other vegetation and soil, our ability to protect nature will have a huge impact on the likelihood of averting climate disaster. 

It’s estimated that nature-based solutions (NBS) can provide one third of the carbon reduction the planet needs to stabilize the climate by 2030. But despite the huge scale of the opportunity, the nature-based offset market has been held back - and one of the principal reasons for this has been a lack of reliable, trustworthy data.

Our groundbreaking research conducted in partnership with academics from UCLA, NASA-JPL and University College London indicates that nature’s ability to sequester carbon has been significantly underestimated, in some cases by as much as 40%, meaning NBS are even more important than previously thought.

There is also the terrifying spectre of tipping points, which could suddenly result in entire ecosystems collapsing. Put bluntly, If nature-based solutions do not succeed, the climate battle is lost.

Of course, NBS are not a silver-bullet. Organizations and nations must invest in reducing emissions as a priority, and other technology-based carbon capture solutions must also be developed and scaled. The critical frame for all global leaders coming into COP26 is that all climate levers must be pulled at once.

The investment gap

The struggle to fund nature conservation is very real. In 2020, an estimated $133 billion was spent on the preservation of nature. Yet, subsidies that damage nature add up to as much as $6 trillion a year, or $11.4 million per minute. While the world fails to value the natural environment it will continue to be destroyed.

The carbon offset market has the power to turn the tide and drive billions of dollars into nature-based projects, however it has not yet achieved its potential because participants have lacked the data to overcome concerns around project design and monitoring. If this lack of trust persists, the market will not achieve the rapid scale to deliver the positive climate impact that is urgently needed.

To build trust, the markets need robust, independent, high frequency data providing clarity on project design and ongoing performance. 

To build scale, the market needs consistent data standards that overcome the complexity and opacity of the market.

And to achieve impact, the market needs to reward the developers and projects that are pushing standards ever higher.

The road ahead is steep and winding. Yet the reward for courage and bravery is enormous. We are proud to be walking shoulder to shoulder with climate leaders from every major industry, and excited about the rapid transformational impact we will achieve together.

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About the author
VP Policy

Ben Rattenbury is a carbon markets, green finance and climate policy expert with more than a decade of experience in the sector. A former Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University, he has also worked with and for the UK financial sector, UK Government, World Bank, and UN Climate Change Secretariat. As VP Policy at Sylvera he leads the team working on Voluntary Carbon Markets intelligence and intersections with wider climate and markets policy.