29 September 2020
Nature for Life Hub Showcases Immediate Benefits of Protecting Nature
Costa Rica rainforest. Photo by Chalo Garcia/ Unsplash
story highlights

During the ‘Nature for Life Hub,’ on the side lines of the opening of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, global leaders signed on to a Pledge for Nature and a Finance for Biodiversity Pledge was launched.

Ten winners of the Equator Prize were announced on "Local Action Day".

The UN General Assembly’s 75th high-level week featured a programme of side events called the ‘Nature for Life Hub,’ organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

On 24 September 2020, the Hub featured sessions on how nature can support achieving the SDGs, with a focus on: nature for climate; nature for water; and scaling up financing. The session on Nature for Climate emphasized the role of ecosystems in climate change mitigation, with one participant saying the world has woken up to the fact that nature underpins our economy and the spread of COVID-19 has confirmed that protecting nature is about protecting ourselves. The benefits from protecting nature are delivered immediately and accrued to locals, he reminded. He stressed as the necessary next steps: defunding deforestation; promoting equity and social justice; and prioritizing natural climate solutions in economic recovery.

The world has woken up: protecting nature is about protecting our economy and ourselves.

Other key messages included:

  • forests and nature can deliver a third of the needed emission reductions, and reversing their degradation will be fundamental for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement;
  • natural climate solutions have moved to the center of the climate change debate, and they are increasingly understood to be an essential complement to decarbonization in climate action; and
  • nature-based solutions, however, have only received 3% of global climate finance.

In a joint statement, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen, and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema called for: placing nature at the heart of sustainable development; building a green, inclusive and circular economy; and mobilizing action from every corner of society. Zac Goldsmith, Minister for Pacific and the Environment, UK, said his government will increase the share spent on nature-based solutions in its climate finance.

A session on Nature for Water highlighted how nature-based solutions can build long-term water security. Key messages included:

  • Water is finite, but our need for it is growing – this relationship needs balancing.
  • Communities, cities, corporations, and other stakeholders are already engaging in activities that integrate nature-based solutions into water management while generating social and economic benefits.
  • Trust is a crucial element for ensuring acceptance for nature-based solutions that require investments, and a lot more can be accomplished when various stakeholders work together.
  • Further efforts are needed to: quantify the benefits of nature-based solutions to build an evidence base for support; nature-based solutions and “grey solutions” need to be assessed holistically; and enabling environments for nature-based solutions need to enhanced.

Among other success stories, Xanthea Limburg, City of Cape Town, explained how the city’s water strategy builds on the experience of successfully avoiding “day zero” in 2018 (when the municipal water supply almost had to be cut off) and includes the principle of working with nature. Ulrike Sapiro, The Coca-Cola Company, said that, of her company’s 300 water replenishment projects that seek to replenish all water the company uses in production processes globally, 230 are dedicated to working with nature.

Stuart Orr, WWF, observed a growing interest in mainstreaming nature-based solutions from investors who see water scarcity-related risks affecting their assets. As constraints to mobilizing financing, Gilles Kleitz, French Development Agency, identified a lack of: technical and performance standards for nature-based solutions; active dialogue with consultancies on performance; and rigorous financing models for NBS.

On 25 September, the Nature for Life Hub focused on business and finance. A key theme was the need to disrupt business-as-usual by placing nature at the center of decision-making. Participants discussed ways to better align goals to protect, restore and sustainably manage nature with goals for sustainable economic development and financial investment. During this event, the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge was launched. Through this Pledge, 26 financial institutions committed to protect and restore biodiversity through their finance activities and investments.

On 28 September  – dubbed “global ambition day” – global leaders and stakeholders showcased commitments to promoting a nature-based planetary safety net. A Nature Finance Forum presented key message including:

  • governments must de-risk investments to create incentives for the private sector;
  • governments alone cannot create change – philanthropists also need to target their efforts;
  • businesses must be mobilized to reduce their own carbon footprints and to help establish enabling environments for entrepreneurs; and
  • finance is needed for Indigenous stewards and to protect the poorest communities who depend on biodiversity

The Day included a Leaders’ Event to mark the launch of the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, developed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Belize, Bhutan, Colombia, Costa Rica, EU, Finland, Kenya, Seychelles and UK, along with intergovernmental and NGO partner organizations. The pledge was launched in support of the first UN Summit on Biodiversity, on 30 September 2020, and the post-2020 biodiversity framework, which countries are expected to agree on at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China (CBD COP 15) in 2021.

Endorsers and supporters of the pledge commit to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, through ten specific actions. At the time of the event, the pledge had attracted endorsements by 70 countries and numerous non-state actors, and hosts expected this number to keep rising.

Opening the event, Volkan Bozkır, President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), lamented that none of the Aichi Targets on biodiversity have been fully achieved, and expressed hope that the September Summit “elevate the political discourse on biodiversity” and become an important step on the road to Kunming. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the new global biodiversity framework to provide a roadmap for implementation. He commended leaders for launching the pledge and called on everyone to make 2021 “nature’s year.” 

In pre-recorded statements, government leaders underscored:

  • There is a need to recognize the interdependence between people and ecosystems. 
  • The current market system fails to capture most ecosystem values. Natural capital needs to be restored, and societies must change how they finance, produce and consume.
  • Goals related to the pledge include zero biodiversity loss, nature-positive development, carbon neutrality, and resilience.
  • Biodiversity conservation is a strategic investment in health, jobs, livelihoods and food security, and protects humanity from diseases.
  • Urgent, practical and ambitious actions are needed, including robust goals and strong monitoring mechanisms.
  • All parts of governments should engage in implementing the pledge, and concerted action is needed from governments, businesses and civil society.
  • Indigenous experience and knowledge should be harnessed, and local communities need to be enlisted to support implementation.
  • Economic recoveries from the COVID-19 pandemic should integrate the goal of “saving our life support system.”

Business and civil society leaders highlighted that:

  • Economies and businesses depend on nature.
  • Humanity is pushing the planet dangerously close to a tipping point that could result in irreversible destabilization of the system.
  • Governments need to create the conditions for the private sector to achieve the biodiversity targets.
  • Financial institutions have announced a Finance for Biodiversity Pledge that includes a target of collaborating and sharing knowledge, engaging with companies, setting targets and reporting on them publicly, by 2024.
  • 60 major faith traditions will develop “faith long-term plans” to protect nature.
  • Equity, justice and women’s rights should be at the heart of efforts to halt biodiversity loss.
  • Nature is fundamental for protecting human health.

Closing the day, CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema called on all stakeholders to come together in global solidarity to take urgent action. UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen outlined five areas where transitions are necessary: food systems; resource extraction; energy systems; green infrastructure investments; and land degradation. She called on governments to ensure all post-COVID-19 stimulus packages include “green strings” and reminded that “failure is not an option.”

The fourth day focused on Local Action, with ten winners of the Equator Prize announced. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of Nature for Life Hub]

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