Nature-Based Solutions In NDC Implementation: A “No-Regret” Climate Resilience Option

02 June 2017

Andrew Wu, World Resources Institute

The Paris Agreement’s goal of staying under 2C equals roughly 800 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent (GtCO2 e) and 16 years remaining in the world’s carbon budget at current emissions rates. Because Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would only reduce the current 14 GtCO2 e/year emissions gap roughly 5 GtCO2 e/year, and land use accounts for 25 percent of global emissions, nations must consider nature-based solutions to increase climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

As part of the NDC Partnership’s Expert Perspective series, Johan Rockström and Tristan Tyrrell of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University have published “Nature-Based Solutions for Better Climate Resilience: the Need to Scale up Ambition and Action,” to help nations understand and expand nature-based solutions for greater climate resilience through NDCs implementation.

Nature-based solutions strategies like conservation, land restoration, ecosystem management like low-emissions agriculture or agro-forestry can all help expand climate resilience and reduce the emissions gap at relatively low costs if they are mainstreamed into ecosystem development and economic policy planning during the NDC implementation process.

Ecosystem climate resilience plays a fundamental dual role on climate mitigation and climate adaptation by dampening and buffering human disturbance through negative feedbacks. Rockström and Tyrrell cite that land-based and marine ecosystems function as a major carbon sink, taking up ~50 percent of annual human emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Rockström and Tyrrell categorize nature-based solutions to climate resilience and emissions reduction as “no-regret” options because they combine climate change mitigation, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable resource management. Their paper cites Brazil’s NDC, which includes plans for a National Native Vegetation Recovery Plan, as an example of nature-based solutions at work.

In order to rapidly decarbonize and meet Paris Agreement goals, Rockström and Tyrrell argue that global agricultural systems must be transformed from major carbon source to carbon sink by mid-century through legislation, regulation, and subsidies. However, they warn poorly conceived policies may harm biodiversity and reduce climate resilience, and recommend governments adhere to the “Cancun Safeguards” to protect the environment while enhancing social benefits.

By developing low-cost nature-based solutions to climate resilience and carbon gap challenges, Rockström and Tyrrell suggest the environment can recover even in the Anthropocene and create a new model for economic development.

To learn how nature-based solutions can expand climate resilience, aid in NDC implementation, and help the world reach its emissions reduction targets download the full Expert Perspectives paper prepared by Rockström and Tyrrell for the NDC Partnership.