The Nature-Positive Race To Zero

Our relationship with nature will make or break the race to a resilient zero-emission future.

The faster we degrade and lose biodiversity, the worse climate change, and the food crisis, will grow. The sooner we act to protect, conserve, sustainably use and regenerate nature within the 2020s, the stronger our chances of reaching net zero emissions before 2050 and becoming resilient to impacts we can’t hold back.

Yet, the majority of businesses and investors have yet to adequately tackle their impact on deforestation and nature.

Even in the food, land and agriculture sector, which relies heavily on nature for its business, most big businesses are lagging behind, according to an analysis commissioned by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and partners and released today.

It finds that out of 148 major food, land and agriculture companies committed to net zero emissions by 2050, only nine – or 6% – are making strong progress to end deforestation. Over 90% risk missing their net-zero commitments because of a lack of action on deforestation. Those making strong progress include Race to Zero members Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars and Colgate-Palmolive and Suzano.

Leadership in finance is similarly slim, although we expect it to grow before COP27. Only 33 financial institutions, out of 500-plus members of the UN-backed Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, have committed to tackle the deforestation driven by agricultural commodities in their portfolios by 2025. This will significantly boost their commitment to halve emissions between 2020 and 2030 en route to net zero before 2050, and more should be joining soon.

The Climate Champions and partners are hosting a high-level London Climate Action Week event – Nature Positive for a Net Zero Future, today, 29 June, from 9:00-11:30 BST. The event features business and investment leaders including Peter Harrison, CEO of Schroders, indigenous advocate Txai Suruí, and Jose Pugas, partner and head of ESG at Brazil’s JGP. You can register to watch it online here.

The challenge of driving a nature-positive economy may be significant, but so are the economic opportunities: worth around US$10.1 trillion per year and 395 million jobs by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.

We will therefore be working with partners across the private sector, civil society and governments to raise understanding of the benefits of nature-positive and kick-start action this year.

RaceTo Zero Raises The Bar

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Nature takes centre stage in the Race to Zero campaign’s updated criteria, following an international consultation with over 200 experts and civil society groups. The annual review is designed to ensure that commitments made under the Race to Zero by businesses, investors, cities and regions are robust and credible, and based on the latest science.

The campaign requires, firstly, that members pledge to reach (net) zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and by 2050 at the latest – recognizing that this requires a phase down and out of all unabated fossil fuels as part of a just transition.

The targets must include all direct and indirect emissions, all territorial emissions for cities and regions, all portfolio/ financed/ facilitated/ insured emissions for financial entities, and all land-based emissions.

Starting pledges must include a goal to halt deforestation and protect biodiversity, making activities and finance consistent with climate-resilient development. They must also include sectoral targets in line with, or more ambitious than, the Race to Zero’s 2030 Breakthroughs; set twin targets for the reduction and removal of emissions; and set targets to reduce methane by at least 34% by 2030 and cut other short-lived greenhouse gas emissions.

Members have a year from when they join to publicly disclose a plan for meeting all the Race to Zero criteria, including work undertaken within the first one to three years and by 2030. These should include the conservation and sustainable use of nature; support a just transition for communities affected by climate impacts and the shift to zero emissions; and empower stakeholders to achieve their own targets. Members should report their progress publicly at least every year through the UNFCCC Global Climate Action Portal.

A new criterion also calls on members to, within a year of joining, align their lobbying and advocacy work, including through membership associations, with the Race to Zero goals.

The Finance Blue Print for Net Zero

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The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero this month released guidance to help financial firms set actional transition plans to halve emissions within the 2020s and reach net zero emissions before 2050 – recognizing the links between climate change and nature loss.

It sets out four approaches that financial institutions should take to support the shift to net-zero: 1) Finance the development and scaling of net-zero technologies and services to replace high-emitting sources; 2) Increase support for companies aligned with a 1.5C temperature limit; 3) Enable high- and low-emitting companies to align their business with a 1.5C pathway; 4) Accelerate the managed phaseout of high-emitting assets through early retirement.

The guidance also provides good practices for deforestation policies in the finance sector. Steps include setting a clear, overarching goal on deforestation; a description of the type of company asset, project and/or activity the policy applies to; criteria or conditions for products and services covered by the policy; and a science-based timeline.

GFANZ now includes over 500 financial firms with more than US$135 trillion in assets committed to net zero by 2050, covering 45 countries and 40% of global private financial assets.

A direct and compelling headline

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The Bonn Climate Change Conference closed after two weeks of intensive work on issues and preparation for the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. This was the first opportunity for all Parties to the UNFCCC to meet since COP26 at Glasgow.

One major topic during the meeting was the first technical dialogue of the Global Stocktake, where Parties and non-Party stakeholders discussed collective progress on the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C through various roundtables. The co-facilitators organized a “World Café”, where Parties and non-Party stakeholders gathered to explore topics across the scope of the Global Stocktake at small tables.

Ahead of the second dialogue to be held at COP27, Parties and non-Party stakeholders are encouraged to hold events at the local, national, regional and international level in support of the Global Stocktake.

The High-Level Champions actively engaged with the conference, including convening events on the Global Stocktake and on resilience and action after impacts. They met with Party groups such as the G77 and China, the African Group, the Least Developed Countries, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the European Union to listen and gather feedback on their plans ahead of COP27, as well as Marrakech Partnership stakeholders and other non-Party stakeholders.

The UNFCCC also held the first annual Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue during the conference, highlighting the importance of oceans to livelihoods and biodiversity and the need for more ocean-related climate action. UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined four recommendations to protect and preserve oceans: invest in sustainable ocean economies, replicate ocean success, protect the people, and provide more science and innovation.

This article was authored by Nigel Topping and was first published here.