Nature and Biodiversity

Nature tech – what is it and why is it important for climate and nature?

Nature-based solutions are designed to restore, preserve and manage nature while mitigating climate change. Image: Unsplash

Lucy Almond
Chair, Nature4Climate Coalition and Head of Communications, Nature Pillar, World Economic Forum
Tony Lent
Co-founder, Capital for Climate
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Nature and Biodiversity

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  • Nature is a vital resource, necessary for our health, livelihoods and well-being. It also accounts for $44 trillion of economic value generation.
  • In addition, nature-based solutions can provide more than one third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to keep climate goals in reach.
  • Nature tech will be vital in helping facilitate and accelerate these solutions, making them valuable tools in tackling climate change.

Nature is a vital resource, necessary for our health, livelihoods, and well-being – it is the physical world in which we live. At present, $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services.

We also need nature to provide more than one third of the mitigation required by 2030 in order to keep our global climate goals in reach. Nature can help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, building resilience in our global ecosystems.

The degradation of this vital resource is happening at an alarming rate: 32% of the world’s forest area has been destroyed; more than 85% of wetlands are gone; 33% of fish stocks are overfished; 50% of coral systems have been destroyed. We are wiping out our habitat.

Human activity is eroding the world’s ecological foundations. Nature tech will be vital in helping facilitate and accelerate nature based solutions for tackling climate change.
Human activity is eroding the world’s ecological foundations. Nature tech will be vital in helping facilitate and accelerate nature based solutions for tackling climate change. Image: Capital for Climate/Nature4Climate

We are in much need of hope, particularly during COP15 – the two-week summit in Montreal that is the biggest biodiversity conference in a decade during which countries hope to strike a deal on protecting and restoring nature

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are designed to restore, preserve and manage nature while mitigating climate change and facilitating a just transition, and are being implemented all around the world – and do give us that glimmer of much-needed hope.

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NbS protect existing ecosystems, help to manage land more efficiently, and restore natural environments. Additionally, nature-based solutions are ensuring that the billion or so people involved with nature on a daily basis, many of them resource-poor, can thrive.

We need more NbS and we need them fast – which is where emerging technologies called ‘nature tech’ come in.

Why is nature tech important for climate and nature?

Nature tech encompasses any technology that can be applied to enable, accelerate, and scale-up nature-based solutions – which require significant new levels of investment if we are to reach our climate, biodiversity and land degradation goals.

Nature tech can be divided into four broad categories:

  • Deployment is designed to alleviate the challenges faced by NbS practitioners such as drone technology for reforestation and interventions that help farmers boost crop yield and livestock productivity
  • Monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV), refers to the process to measure and report climate, biodiversity and social benefits through technology such as satellite monitoring, LiDAR and eDNA testing
  • Transparency, makes visible the ownership and transactions of natural assets through the use of blockchain for carbon transactions and registries
  • Connection, such as mobile apps that can connect local communities to higher-paying markets, helping to drive sustainable use of natural ecosystems

According to a new report issued this month by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, international climate goals will be out of reach unless investments into nature-based solutions quickly ramp up to $384 billion per year by 2025, more than double of the current $154 billion per year. This is where nature tech could play a valuable role.

“Capital moves to nature at the speed of trust”. This quote from Manual Pinuela, Co-founder of Cultivo, describes the emerging new market of nature tech that is critical for creating the trust required to adequately fund NbS. Through focusing technology on nature, we can measure and quantify improvements, in many cases for the very first time.

At the moment, commercial implementations of nature-based solutions – necessary for sustained funding and deployment – in many cases still don’t have a well-defined path to monetization. Non-profits, while they serve an important catalytic function, simply don’t have the funds required to fully deploy NbS.

In addition, NbS approaches differ – sometimes radically – from business-as-usual practices across the entire value chain. Users, suppliers, off-takers and funders need to rethink how they do business. These kinds of changes are never easy.

The new The Nature Tech Market. Necessary, Emergent, Dynamic report by Nature4Climate and Capital for Climate provides information and clarity around the nascent nature tech sector that can help build trust in the role that NbS have in restoring balance to the climate and the natural world.

It introduces a taxonomy that will help investors and users of nature tech – distinct from climate tech and agritech – to identify it and describe it consistently.

The report also estimates that the current nature tech market size is approximately $2 billion and is estimated to grow to $6 billion in less than 10 years.

What’s next for nature tech?

The report finds four trends for market growth over the next five to 10 years:

  • Nature tech’s ability to value and report on nature will greatly improve, providing increasingly bankable benefits for those who protect, restore and manage natural systems, ecosystems and landscapes
  • The main driver of nature tech market growth won’t be technology per se, but the world’s ability to create effective policy, and to build human capacity and community
  • As nature tech solutions mature and scale, the market will undergo considerable consolidation and vertical integration, but perhaps with a “mass customization” twist
  • Some of the most important innovation in nature tech will come from the Global South

As attention turns to much-needed government action in Montreal this month, it is clear that we need private sector investment to scale up nature-based solutions.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing about nature?

And while emerging tech solutions are by no means a silver bullet, they can make NbS more efficient, their benefits more verifiable, and can be used to ensure that they provide for a just transition.

Nature tech is essential for helping NbS address the interrelated challenges of climate change and nature loss, as well as supporting global climate, nature and sustainability goals.

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Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate ChangeForests
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