Reducing our bet on fossil fuels requires a long time. A rapid transformation of the existing energy systems and infrastructure is a slow process too. However, we are not utilizing the natural climate solutions, already available if we want to limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Our lands provide an untapped opportunity – both storing carbon and reducing carbon emissions. Our forests, grasslands, and wetlands are the key to natural climate solutions, can help address climate change in three ways: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, capturing and storing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and improving the resilience of ecosystems.
But, we found continuing imbalance in investment in nature-based solutions despite being cost-effective. Still, a quarter of the world’s governments hasn’t prioritized natural climate solutions to address climate change. The UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change reports that, by 2030, up to a third of its annual land-based emissions reductions targets could be achieved at a cost of $20 or less per carbon tons. While the transition to low carbon energy will take decades, natural climate solutions could provide a biological bridge to a low-carbon future in the near-term.
Justin Adams, in a new study produced by the Nature Conservancy, has addressed the most promising ways to mitigate climate change are what we call “natural climate solutions”: the conservation, restoration, and improved management of land, in order to increase carbon storage in landscapes worldwide.
Along with 15 other leading institutions, this study has prioritized the protection of “frontier forests” – that serve as natural carbon sinks. The preservation of frontier habitats also helps regulate water flows, reduces the risk of flooding, and maintains biodiversity. Secondly, it also emphasized on the reforestation, as an estimated 4.9 billion acres of land has been deforested or degraded globally. According to their study, it has estimated, the world could capture three gigatons of CO2 annually. Thirdly, it has highlighted the agricultural reform, as the food sector is a major contributor to climate change through direct and indirect emissions, and by its often-negative effects on soil health and deforestation.
Reforestation is the single largest nature-based climate mitigation opportunity we have. In addition, reforestation provides cleaner water, cleaner air, flood control, and more fertile soils, not to mention wood products and tree crops.
The coastal wetlands are also key, also known as ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems. Many coastal wetlands have converted to agriculture, aquaculture or urban development in different corners of the world. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, where mangrove forests are converted for aquaculture, palm oil production, and rice farms. Our coastal wetlands are possible to conversion in new form keeping the natural biodiversity, as we are already blessed with the largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.
We know, in Bangladesh, an estimated 35 million people of 19 coastal districts are vulnerable to climate change, may result in over 25 million climate refugees due to global warming by 2050. In this backdrop, this country has adopted few natural climate solutions like reforestation projects to protect coastal wetlands.
Already, in 2009, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has introduced ‘Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change through Coastal Afforestation (CBACC)’ in coastal areas of Bangladesh. This programme is an example of drawing together climate change adaptation and economic development through 9,000 ha. of mangrove afforestation.
Later, in 2016, UNDP has initiated ‘Integrating Community-based Adaptation into Afforestation and Reforestation (ICBA-AR) Programmes to reduce the vulnerability of communities to the adverse impacts of climate change. With the help of Bangladesh Forest Department, this project aims to reforest 650 ha. of degraded mangroves with 12 different species to enhance the resilience of mangrove through diversification.
To make the natural climate solutions successful, these programmes have adopted of Fish-Fruit-Forest (FFF) model to climate risk in the coastal area, which is now providing agricultural, fisheries, livestock and innovative livelihood support to poor communities.
It also engaged local communities in coastal forest management and sharing forest benefits among others. Around 10,500 poor local households are projected to be benefitted from the project. In 2017 the project has reached 2,310 households of which round 44% beneficiaries are female.
About the author:
*Zulker Naeen is a communication graduate from University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), is a freelance journalist at Climate Tracker. [email protected]
Adams, J. (2017). Natural Solutions to Climate Change. Dhaka: Green Watch Dhaka.
The Nature Conservancy. (2018). Nature’s Sleeping Giant. Arlington: The Nature Conservancy.
UNDP Bangladesh. (2017). Community-based Adaptation to Fight Climate Change For Coastal Communities. Dhaka: UNDP Bangladesh.