Businesses must invest in nature to keep the 1.5C goal in reach

Workers load palm oil fresh fruit bunches to be transported from the collector site to CPO factories in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, April 27, 2022

Workers load palm oil fresh fruit bunches to be transported from the collector site to CPO factories in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, April 27, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Achieving nature protection is crucial to achieving climate goals – and business has a big role to play

Maria Mendiluce is CEO of the We Mean Business Coalition.

As attention turns from the climate summit COP27 to the biodiversity summit COP15, the outcomes of both will impact whether the 1.5 degree Celsius limit on global temperature rise is achievable.

More than 250 business and civil society leaders have joined a call to reaffirm their own commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C and call on governments to implement 1.5C-aligned action plans.

While the ambition to keep the 1.5C limit alive did make it into the final COP27 outcome, governments largely failed to demonstrate they had a plan to implement the actions needed to get us there.

We left COP27 knowing our destination, but without leadership from governments to direct us on the journey.

As COP15 gets underway, scientists have already made clear that at the current level of warming – 1.2C higher than pre-industrial levels - we are reaching dangerous tipping points in the Earth’s ecosystems much faster than expected.

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Companies and government cannot just pay lip service to the 1.5C target: they must take the action that aligns with their commitment not to surpass this limit.

And science couldn’t be clearer. We have an urgent and intractable problem with emissions from nature that needs more attention.

One-third of the emissions going into the atmosphere come from the use of land and nature.

Scientists from Conservation International specify we need to get the sector to net-zero by 2030 to maintain a credible pathway to limit temperature rise to 1.5C. This makes nature and land-use the sector that requires the most rapid action to avert the most disastrous impacts of climate change.

While land must decarbonize a full 20 years earlier than other sectors, only 3% of international climate finance is now directed to the nature loss crisis.

Nearly $500 billion in annual public agricultural subsidies continue to sustain environmentally harmful practices that drive climate change. This must change.

And if companies are serious about their commitment to the 1.5C limit, they need to lead the way. A new guide for companies on how to invest in nature-based solutions outlines five principles on what they need to do to incorporate nature effectively into their climate transition action plans.

First, companies must cut emissions in their value chains using science-based targets.

Next, companies must prioritise cleaning up their own supply chains in terms of land-based emissions. This requires all companies to ensure the raw materials that they use aren’t contributing to deforestation and land degradation.

The production of palm oil, livestock, soybeans, rubber, pulp and paper, and cocoa are among the raw materials most at risk of causing greenhouse gas emissions. Companies must implement robust due diligence and traceability systems to ensure they are sourcing these commodities sustainably.

With food production making up roughly half of land-related emissions, the private sector has a critical role to the lead on the transformation of our food systems, supporting farmers as they transition to regenerative practices that deliver benefits to people, climate, and nature.

Companies like PepsiCo are taking the lead with their commitment to scale regenerative practices across 7 million hectares by 2030.

But this won’t be enough. The third principle is that if business truly wants to keep 1.5C alive, they must rapidly scale up investments beyond their value chains to protect the vital natural carbon sinks that all corporate climate targets rely upon.

Tackling nature loss and land-use emissions within their own value-chains alone simply won’t be enough to solve the interconnected crises of nature loss and climate change.

To demonstrate climate leadership, every year, companies need to simultaneously make investments in nature-based solutions, for example by buying high-quality carbon credits to compensate for 10-100% of the emissions they have not yet cut across their value chain.

Importantly these investments must come in addition – not instead of – progress towards reducing their value-chain emissions.

Even modest investments would have catalytic impacts: if the world’s 1,700 biggest emitters, as they worked to cut their emissions in line with science, compensated each year for just 10% of the emissions they have not yet cut through investments in nature, it would mitigate nearly 30 gigatonsof emissions and mobilize up to $1 trillion in climate finance.

The fourth and fifth principles specify that for companies to take comprehensive action for nature, they should also advocate for strong nature policies – for example at COP15 – and be accountable for their actions on nature through clear and transparent reporting.

This is the type of corporate leadership that would keep hope for 1.5C alive as we move through COP15, and toward next year’s COP28.

There were some encouraging signals from COP27 on nature. What business needs now is a strong global goal at COP15 and an unprecedented mobilization of resources and action to ensure nature is at the heart of the solution.

Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Context or the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


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