The Paris Agreement’s goal of staying under 2oC equals roughly 800 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent (GtCO2 e) or 16 years in the world’s carbon budget at current emissions rates. Since current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would only reduce the 14 GtCO2 e/year emissions gap by roughly 5 GtCO2 e/year, and land use accounts for 25% of global emissions, countries should consider nature-based solutions as part of their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

As part of the NDC Partnership’s Expert Perspective series, Johan Rockström, Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), and Tristan Tyrrell, Programme Officer at SwedBio at SRC, have published Nature-Based Solutions for Better Climate Resilience: the Need to Scale up Ambition and Action, on getting nations to understand and expand nature-based solutions for greater climate resilience through their NDC implementation.

Nature-based solutions like conservation, land restoration, and ecosystem management strategies 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 in climate mitigation and adaptation by dampening and buffering human disturbance through negative feedbacks. Terrestrial and marine ecosystems function as a major carbon sink, absorbing around 50% of annual human emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Nature-based solutions for climate resilience and emissions reduction can be categorised as “no-regret” options because they combine climate change mitigation, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable resource management, as well as generating livelihood opportunities. Brazil’s NDC, which includes plans for a National Native Vegetation Recovery Plan, is an example of nature-based solutions at work.

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

“Low-cost nature-based solutions to climate resilience and carbon gap challenges can be developed that allow the environment to recover, even in the Anthropocene, and create a new model for economic development”, emphasised Tyrrell.