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Why Nature, Why Now?

Be part of the re-generation

Nature, our life source – provider of food, water, and the foundation of all human livelihood and economic activity – is in crisis. Over the past 30 years, we’ve wiped out 68% of global wildlife, and continue to endanger far more, including 40% of insect species, which are on the verge of extinction. Over a quarter of the land on Earth is now so degraded that the soils cannot grow food or have even become deserts.

Meanwhile, scientists have warned that we risk crossing dangerous earth system “tipping points”, and that the domino effect could make huge areas of our globe uninhabitable for human beings. Together with rising greenhouse gas emissions, further devastation of nature is nothing but double trouble for lives and livelihoods of people everywhere.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) investigated this double trouble in their first-ever joint report, released last year. It showed that biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities, which include burning fossil fuels and chemical-intensive agriculture. The authors made clear that neither the climate crisis nor biodiversity loss will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.

Ocean Shoreline at sunset

We come from philanthropy, the private sector, and the non-profit community, three key sectors that need to work together, now more than ever. We need to encourage an ongoing step change in public and private investment that will secure a nature positive future: a future where we move from an extractive and destructive economy to a regenerative and green one. We have to do this for the sake of a stable climate, for the sake of a thriving planet, and most importantly, for the sake of the health and wellbeing of all humanity. Each of us believe it is possible to chart a path to global recovery and regeneration. We recognize that no organization or individual can succeed alone, but rather we are better together to drive the systemic changes necessary.

Investments in nature need robust accountability

One of the urgent systemic changes we need is ramping up investments into nature. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that for a course correction, we need to at least triple investments in nature by 2030 and close a USD 4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050, or USD 536 billion annually. That is still less than 1% of projected global Gross Domestic Product over the same time period: a relatively tiny amount considering that doing so would act as the best possible insurance policy to ward off those tipping points according to science. In addition, the World Economic Forum research shows that if we direct capital into a nature positive economy now, we can create over 400 million jobs and $10 trillion in economic value by 2030.

We need to encourage an ongoing step change in public and private investment that will secure a nature positive future

Investments are starting to flow because of a new global awareness: collectively we know there are fundamental economic and social advantages of tackling climate change and biodiversity loss together.

Field of alpine flowersThanks to the work of WWF and many others, over 90 nations have committed to reverse nature loss by 2030 and more than a thousand businesses support a nature positive future. Investments into nature-based solutions on the voluntary carbon markets surged last year and could become worth upwards of 50 billion USD per year by 2030. Additionally, major philanthropies pledged 5 billion USD for nature at the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

With this raised game comes the clear need for measurable results and robust accountability. Later this year, we hope to see a strong new global framework for nature adopted at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal, 5-17 December 2022. The run up to this particular COP has been fractious and hampered by COVID19, but the significance of the outcome of COP15 for a liveable future cannot be underestimated.

We hope to see a flurry of activity in terms of nature investments and commitments between now and COP15 to support a robust global framework for nature, including at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh in November, where nature will also be high on the agenda. That’s because more and more companies and governments are realizing that net zero without nature positive simply won’t cut it. Business for Nature, a global coalition of 70 international and national partners and over 1,000 businesses, calls on governments to adopt policies now to reverse nature loss.

More and more companies and governments are realizing that net zero without nature positive simply won’t cut it.

Our combined advocacy is already resulting in concrete, collaborative action. For instance, Salesforce co-founded 1t.org – a global movement to conserve, restore and grow 1 trillion trees by 2030. Porticus has incorporated nature into their Purposeful Business Portfolio, working with the Global Commons Alliance to launch the Accountability Accelerator to ensure that corporate commitments on nature translate into concrete actions. The Accelerator has supported groups like the World Benchmarking Alliance who examine keystone companies tracking their performance towards a nature-positive future by measuring how companies are reducing their impact and even regenerating ecosystems.

Recognize nature’s true value for humanity

A diverse ecosystem of actors is now working together to ensure the architecture is in place to support investments in nature and ensure they measure up. Elements include the first Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures methodology, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and its monitoring framework (which is the umbrella for the Trillion Tree Initiative, 1t.org), and nature-related guidance from the Science Based Targets Network (a core component of the Global Commons Alliance), which is setting robust targets for nature for companies and cities, and will launch the first of these early next year.

For the finance industry, the Principles for Responsible Banking are being translated into specific ecosystem-related guidance, and the UNEP Finance Initiative has issued a new Directory for Land-Use Finance impacts on nature and climate.

All of these are excellent tools that can be studied and leveraged right now to contribute to the net zero, nature positive future we urgently need.

Nature is no longer a nice-to-have as part of a suite of sustainability efforts — it is central to the success of any company’s long-term value, and critical to creating a resilient value chain. All companies need to take no regrets action on nature now and prepare to set science-based targets for nature. Transparency and accountability must be key components of corporate action.

Nature is central to the success of any company’s long-term value, and critical to creating a resilient value chain.

Given the severity of the crisis we face and the appetite for change, it won’t be long before disclosure related to nature impacts will be mandatory. Getting ahead of the curve is more prudent than ever.

But movements take work and need investing in, too. The groups on the ground putting sweat and tears into developing these tools, and providing the connective tissue between actors, need ongoing support to continue developing them and to keep weaving the community together.

Tidal ecosystem at sunset

Philanthropic foundations can play a catalytic role in this by aligning key performance indicators and measurements with the new global framework for nature. Additionally, they can bring all the stakeholders together and fund necessary catalytic and ‘hard to fund’ pilots and investments. They can also help support the global and national coordination of collective action.

Today, we have at our fingertips a wealth of understanding of the Earth’s systems and their relation to our climate and to our own health and happiness. It’s time to harness that wealth of knowledge, to invest back into our life support system and deliver the solutions in this decisive decade so that future generations have more abundant and diverse nature in the world than we have today.

We must rethink our relationship with nature and recognize the true value it brings through a variety of ecosystem services. The three of us, each representing a different stakeholder group, are committed to that future and the community of actors who feel the same is growing as we speak.

We need more collaborators to enter the space, starting with:

  • Funders that truly understand the interconnectedness of the earth systems crisis
  • Corporations that need to make nature and climate commitments that translate to concrete investment and action
  • NGOs that need to work in coordination for a greater whole
  • Governments that must drive the systemic change we urgently need

Join us and be part of the emerging movement that can — and must — rebuild and safeguard the very foundation on which our collective future depends.

Tim Christophersen is VP for Climate Action at Salesforce. He leads a team focused on nature-based solutions to climate change and international sustainability. Before joining Salesforce, Tim was Head of the ‘Nature for Climate’ Branch at the United Nations Environment Programme, and led a growing global movement backed by all ... Read more
Caroline is the Global Manager for the Purposeful Business Challenge at Porticus. Previously, she worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development focused on SME development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their Donor Government Relations team in London. Her current work is focused on enabling businesses ... Read more
Natasha is a global strategist with 25 years of experience in philanthropy, environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, and systems change. Natasha is the Executive Director of Global Commons Alliance’s Accountability Accelerator which is supporting "radical collaboration" among stakeholders in order to build an effective accountability architecture which is needed ... Read more

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