We need to develop a nature supplement to Article 6 to ensure that nature and climate are tackled in tandem, writes Torrey Sanseverino, natural capital research associate at BeZero Carbon.
- Globally, biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate and additional funding of $722-967 billion will be needed to reverse the biodiversity crisis by 2030.
- Progress for biodiversity needs to happen concurrently with carbon and Article 6 stakeholders should consider utilising the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans framework.
- Governments must use the net zero momentum and seize this opportunity to incentivise habitat protection alongside emission mitigation.
The decline of our natural environment is accelerating and worsening by the day. To avoid further ecological destruction, we need a biodiversity framework that supplements Article 6.
Biodiversity conservation funding urgently needed to reverse losses
Globally, biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate. About 70% of wildlife populations have been lost between 1970 and 2018 and almost 30% of all known species are threatened with extinction. For instance, in my hometown San Diego, about 99.9% of the monarch butterfly population has been lost since the 1980s.
To push back the tide, biodiversity conservation funding is urgently needed. As the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concludes, additional funding of $722-967 billion will be needed to reverse the biodiversity crisis by 2030. According to their estimates, finance for nature needs to be doubled to halt biodiversity loss. To do so, private sector investment, currently 17% of total investment in nature, will need to increase by multiple orders of magnitude.
Hope is not lost. Nature-based solutions (NBS), the poster child of the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), often have biodiversity benefits. Between 2002 and 2021, the total disclosed value of NBS credits sold was approximately $1.5 billion.
The biodiversity benefits of these projects can be meaningful when quantified and verified through a fairly standardised framework. The recent advances in biodiversity metrics for VCM projects are beginning to form this framework.
How Article 6 comes into play
But further progress is needed to whip biodiversity markets into shape. Inspiration should be taken from the Paris Agreement’s Article 6 framework for countries to conduct country-scale carbon accounting. While this framework is still uncertain and has a long road to maturity ahead, it has catalysed national interest and investment in carbon mitigation. Progress for biodiversity needs to happen concurrently with carbon.
To unlock such progress, Article 6 stakeholders should consider utilising the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAP) framework. This framework is a flexible system that countries use to plan how they will address threats to their biodiversity. With further standardisation of the framework, countries could use the state of biodiversity reported in their NBSAP as a baseline to compare progress over time.
In practice, the NBSAP can provide the basic infrastructure necessary for strong disclosure and transparency in the biodiversity market. Article 6 carbon credit issuances use a country’s NDC for accounting purposes. Following the same logic, national biodiversity efforts could be accounted for via country commitments to NBSAPs made at COP15.
Signatories to the framework are obliged to publish at least one NBSAP with national biodiversity indicators and monitoring data as well as update them periodically. So far, 185 NBSAPs have been submitted out of 196 participating countries. The widespread use and agreement of NBSAPs suggests that it could make a vehicle for consistent biodiversity reporting.
Both biodiversity enhancement and carbon emission mitigation are crucial for the planet’s health. We urgently need to develop an international biodiversity impact framework – a nature supplement to Article 6 – to ensure that nature and climate are tackled in tandem, not in isolation.
A biodiversity framework to supplement Article 6 should not exist in the abstract. This would create a vehicle for tangible changes to be made by individuals and corporations on the ground making an effort to decarbonise. Biodiversity conservation efforts are increasingly part and parcel of decarbonisation strategies, as entities focus on preserving natural assets.
The purchase of environmental assets – such as carbon credits or biodiversity credits – to offset emissions will remain a crucial mechanism that individuals and organisations deploy to progress towards net zero. This means capital being channelled into projects that not only avoid or remove carbon from the atmosphere, but ones that also protect natural habitats and reverse their erosion.
Addressing biodiversity and climate together
Investing in forest carbon projects has a dual effect on our planet’s wellness: mitigating emissions from greenhouse gases and enshrining entire ecosystems from damage. As countries barrel towards decarbonising, so too are they investing in the cause of natural habitat preservation – this must be accounted for.
Rigorous and reliable accounting of a country’s biodiversity efforts – alongside its decarbonisation progress – translate into meaningful incentives for further investment in projects that work. Buyers benefit from transparency in environmental markets: in carbon markets and biodiversity markets alike.
Increased clarity in biodiversity reporting drives trust in markets, and supports countries in channelling capital into environmentally impactful projects. Bolstered by a robust biodiversity framework, transparent accounting of a government’s environmental portfolio can breed fairer pricing of projects and further the progress of biodiversity and carbon markets more broadly.
Meaningful climate action is the product of a multifaceted approach, where biodiversity and climate are addressed concurrently. Biodiversity protection is not simply a byproduct of decarbonisation strategies, but sits at the heart of environmental action. Governments must use the net zero momentum and seize this opportunity to incentivise habitat protection alongside emission mitigation.