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A force for nature

Increasing recognition of the role of nature in countries' climate plans – but further action still needed
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
A force for nature

A new report by WWF assesses the integration of nature and nature-based solutions in countries’ climate action plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

NDCs are the way the Parties to the Paris Agreement communicate their climate plans. They are critical to achieving its goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C and securing a future that is safer for people and nature.

The report finds that 105 out of 114 enhanced NDCs (92%) submitted by 12 October 2021 included nature-based solutions.

96 of these relate to cutting emissions and improving carbon drawdown from the atmosphere, 91 relate to adaptation plans and improving resilience to climate change risks, with an overlap of 82 addressing both mitigation and adaptation.

This reflects a positive trend compared with previous submissions, up from 82% when WWF last assessed countries’ commitments in July this year. 

‘It is encouraging that more countries are rightly recognising nature as a climate hero as there is no pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C without protecting and restoring nature. The climate crisis and nature loss are two sides of the same coin and we cannot tackle one without the other.  

‘It’s vital that, alongside slashing carbon emissions, the COP26 climate summit must inspire countries to maximise the potential of nature in their climate plans and deliver the financing to back this up. Failure to do so will undermine efforts to avert the worst impacts of climate change.  
‘This is the decade when we must collectively limit climate change and restore nature. Nature-based solutions can not only help to reduce greenhouse gas levels, but also protect people and wildlife and create good jobs. We won’t forget and future generations won’t forgive if leaders fail to step up and deliver.’

Chief adviser on climate change at WWF

Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions are initiatives that protect, restore and sustainably manage land and ocean ecosystems such as forests, peatlands, wetlands, savannahs, coral reefs and mangroves.

They aim to address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits. Without nature at the heart of NDCs, WWF says it will not be possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

More than three times as many NDCs now refer to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) or other global processes.

There was also a large increase in the number of NDCs explicitly referring to Indigenous peoples and other local communities – up by 88%.

This demonstrates increasing recognition of their essential role as custodians of more than 80% of our planet’s biodiversity.

‘Indigenous peoples are on the front line of the climate emergency. We are suffering and nature is crying out for help. Our homes are being destroyed and time is running out – yet Brazil still hasn’t presented a more ambitious NDC and shows a lack of commitment to climate action.

‘It’s not too late. Indigenous peoples have the ideas and knowledge to protect and restore our homes and the forests that we all rely on. If we look after nature, it will look after us in return, by keeping our climate and our wildlife safe, and our food in healthy supply.’

Indigenous activist from the Brazilian Amazon and WWF-Brazil Deliberative Council member

WWF is calling for decisions adopted at COP to include a clear request for countries to maximise the potential of nature in their NDCs and other national climate plans.

For this to have teeth, governments must commit to new and additional financing for nature-based solutions, which should be increased to at least 30% of overall climate finance. 

WWF is also calling on UNFCCC to include in guidance around the development of NDCs a specific call for countries to maximise the potential of nature and nature-based solutions.  

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