Nature and Biodiversity

New York Climate Week: 5 takeaways for the nature-positive agenda

Emissions cuts must be complemented by nature-positive solutions.

Emissions cuts must be complemented by nature-positive solutions. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lucy Almond
Chair, Nature4Climate Coalition and Head of Communications, Nature Pillar, World Economic Forum
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • New York Climate Week reinforced the importance of nature-positive action in supporting the net zero goals.
  • Business and science leaders urged UNFCCC signatories to deliver on their commitments to nature-based climate action.
  • Finance, nature tech and Indigenous communities were among the focus areas for accelerating progress on protecting the environment and biodiversity.

The issue of nature-positive action, to halt and reverse the destruction of nature by 2030, was front and centre at New York Climate Week. Nature-positive goals complement the agreed global climate target of net zero emissions by 2050. To achieve this, we need to halve emissions by 2030. But as climate science shows, it will not be enough. The only way to hold the 1.5°C line is to simultaneously cut emissions, safeguard natural carbon sinks and transform agriculture from one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases to a vital store of carbon.

More than 90 leaders and experts from business, science, NGO and youth groups released an open letter that urged UNFCCC Parties to deliver on their climate and biodiversity commitments and disclose their implementation plans as part of the Global Stocktake. The letter, titled “It’s Time to Take Stock of Nature”, followed on the heels of updated research that indicates that more than half (52%) of joint global commitments tracked since 2019 related to nature-based climate action have published little to no evidence of progress in the past six months.

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However, a clear momentum on the prioritization, disclosure, and reporting on nature was brought to New York Climate Week. Here are five key takeaways:

1. Finance

The tone for the week was set with the launch of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures’ (TNFD) recommendations, which seek to position nature risk alongside financial, operational and climate risk and help to shift capital flows to nature-positive outcomes. This important milestone was accompanied by a range of events and reports, including the two new papers from the UN High-Level Climate Champions that specify recommendations to break financing barriers for restoring nature in emerging markets and developing economies.

One theme that stood out was the importance of collaboration. No single organization has all the tools or expertise to act effectively alone.

However, there were also important reminders that far too much capital is still flowing into activities that are harming nature, including business-as-usual commodity agriculture. Shifting these financial flows by setting policies, establishing effective due diligence and management, and better understanding the opportunities of nature-positive investment requires building a much bigger tent.

2. Nature tech

The latest technology developments – such as AI and geospatial mapping – have huge potential to accelerate high-quality nature-based solutions. We saw the importance of nature tech to aid transparent reporting and monitoring as disclosure regulations consolidate, and many innovations from the Global South that actively respond and cater to the needs of local smallholders. Restor, for example, is working with NatureMetrics, Rainforest Connection and Terraformation to produce a freely available mapping resource for conservation and restoration projects. Through this map, potential funders can quickly connect with project developers and view easily accessible, transparent data.

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3. Carbon markets

Spread across many different events, vibrant discussions took place during New York Climate Week about the role of the voluntary carbon market in our collective path to net zero, particularly their potential to deliver urgent action now. Much of the focus was on how the voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) is restructuring and innovating at an amazing pace. There were many different perspectives represented in this dialogue, including voices that offered significant, yet constructive, criticism. The concept of “VCM 2.0” was raised in multiple fora as a way to summarize the collective efforts underway to address issues and overcome barriers. And the phrase “Continuous improvement is a feature, not a bug, of the market” was heard regularly at events.

4. Indigenous peoples and local communities

The critical role that Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) play as guardians of our natural ecosystems is now firmly established and beyond question. At New York Climate Week, there was a polite but palpable frustration from IPLCs that climate funds are not reaching them. This massive deficit is increasingly being acknowledged by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors, with a wide range of events dedicated to this topic. Analysis by Nature4Climate found that only 11% of the joint nature-related commitments made since 2019 specifically mention IPLCs. There were some bright spots, such as the announcement by the Ford Foundation, which announced that it has already disbursed $87 million of its $100 million pledge to support tenure rights and forest guardianship of IPLCs. But much more clearly needs to be done.

5. Nature-positive action

Despite recent analysis that over half of the current commitments have not presented enough evidence of progress over the last six months, it was clear that forests, nature and land use change have become more central in the climate action discourse, a trend that we have been observing over the past five years. Leaders across the nature-positive movement joined forces to call for greater transparency and delivery on nature-related commitments. This has largely been made possible by the fact that, despite the diversity of voices and priorities, there is an overall agreement across non-state actors that nature needs to be accounted for as a viable, cost-effective and scalable solution to tackle both the climate and biodiversity crises.

Evidence of such alignment was made clear with the launch of the Nature Positive Initiative and the release of an open letter signed by nearly 100 leaders from NGOs, IGOs, businesses and IPLC groups. Business for Nature, WBCSD and the World Economic Forum launched new guidance that sets out the priority actions businesses across 12 sectors must take to contribute to a nature-positive future.

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All eyes will now turn to COP28 in November, where policy-makers, business and NGOs will again push for higher ambition on nature as part of the climate solution, but also a vital mechanism for the protection and restoration of livelihoods and biodiversity. Only by harnessing these tools and trends, and through collective action, will we scale solutions to prevent biodiversity collapse and meet the ambition of the Global Biodiversity Framework.

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