At the UN climate summit in Glasgow – COP26 – the nature and climate agendas came closer together than ever before.
Next year, world leaders will meet in Kunming, China, to agree a new global plan for nature at the UN’s biodiversity summit, COP15.
With the need for joint and integrated action clearer than ever, discussions on nature at COP26 demonstrate the importance of action and accountability and offer insights ahead of the upcoming biodiversity summit.
The importance of nature in addressing climate change was evident at COP26, with a "Nature Day" (6 November) featuring major announcements on investment and action, a focus on nature in a wide range of side events, and the importance of nature’s contribution emphasised in the text of the final agreement.
Nature-based solutions have a crucial role to play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation. By 2030, nature-based solutions can deliver emission reductions and removals of at least 5 GtCO2e per year, and at least 10 GtCO2e by 2050, alongside essential cuts to global emissions from fossil fuels and other sources. Nature-based solutions are also one of the most cost-effective approaches for adapting to the impacts of climate change.
One message that was clear from a range of those attending COP26 is that nature-based solutions require increased public and private investment. Nature-based solutions are also good investments. For adaptation they have been shown to have high benefit-cost ratios (>5:1 for mangrove protection), reduce costs and increase effectiveness of other approaches and deliver many other benefits.
Another clear message was that nature-based solutions must be implemented fairly and equitably, upholding the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. A recent report stated that only with strict standards and safeguards in place can nature-based solutions deliver their full range of potential benefits for people and planet.
Part of the positive momentum for nature at COP26 was a pledge by over 100 world leaders to end deforestation by 2030.
“The pledge at the Climate summit to end deforestation by 2030 is a marker that the importance of nature for climate stability is understood at the highest levels internationally,” says Valerie Kapos, Head of Climate Change and Biodiversity, UNEP-WCMC.
“That said, it is important to place these pledges in context and recognise the challenges that need to be overcome to achieve them. Previous such targets, including the pledge to end deforestation by 2020 included in the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all countries have not been achieved. To make a positive difference these new pledges need to be backed by intensified and concrete action.”
The focus on action and accountability is expected to increase ahead of the biodiversity summit in Kunming next year.
Neville Ash, Director, UNEP-WCMC says: “The pledges and agreements on climate and nature at COP26, and those to come at COP15, must be followed by action and a more transparent understanding of progress towards them. Delivering on these stated ambitions is the only way we will collectively achieve climate stability and live in harmony with nature.”
In addition to the importance of action and accountability, events in Glasgow have further implications for negotiations towards biodiversity COP15 in Kunming on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework:
Ambition: The climate negotiations have recognized the challenge of matching ambition with the need for action to achieve global goals. Current ambitions and actions are insufficient. The same is evident for upcoming biodiversity negotiations. Whilst nature’s prominence at COP26 shows increased interest in and broader support for the nature agenda, this must translate into governments raising ambition for not just the goals and targets of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, but also mechanisms and resources for its delivery.
All sectors: The recognition of the role of nature in addressing the climate crisis has implications across all sectors of society and the economy, including with the private sector, where understanding of the links between climate and nature and of the benefits of joint action is growing rapidly. Building on this and both recognizing and ensuring engagement, commitment, and action from all sectors of society and the economy will be key to the success of COP15.
Finance: Ensuring financial resources are available particularly for developing countries to deliver on international commitments will be critical for the success of the Paris Agreement, and for delivering on the commitments expected to be made in Kunming. Such finances must come from a range of domestic and international sources, and be accompanied with measures to ensure that mainstream financial flows are not undermining climate and biodiversity ambitions. However, developed countries have not yet met their long-standing commitment to make available international climate finance at levels previously agreed. The failure to meet such commitments has implications for trust across international policy fora.
Nature-based solutions for both mitigation and adaption: In addition to recognizing the important role of nature-based solutions to contribute to climate mitigation, the importance of supporting communities and economies in adapting to the impacts of climate change was clear at COP26. Nature-based solutions will have a critical role in both mitigation and adaptation, with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework being a crucial opportunity to set objectives for ensuring the resilience of ecosystems and their contribution to addressing the climate crisis.
Transparency: COP26 progressed on a range of transparency measures, including more frequent (annual) communications of ambition for national action (through NDCs), and on the continued role of the UNFCCC Secretariat in compiling a synthesis report of commitments made by countries for climate action, and the implications of these for the goals for the Paris Agreement. Negotiations towards biodiversity COP15 will include consideration of similar elements to support enhanced transparency of delivery towards biodiversity goals and targets.