The following statement was issued by the Wildlife Conservation Society as the United Nations focused on the importance of nature-based solutions to the world’s climate crisis.The Nature-Based Solutions Coalition of the UN Climate Action Summit hosted a high-level event today to highlight the critical role of nature for climate action and the pathways to unlocking nature’s full potential for mitigation and adaptation to deliver the Paris Agreement and carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Cristiàn Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said:

“We have seen and heard political leadership at the highest levels calling for the transformational power of nature to be fully valued and realized for the future of our planet. We have heard about initiatives and efforts for regional and international cooperation to catalyze action on Nature Based Solutions (NBS). At WCS, we are working with several partners advancing and emphasizing the importance of nature-based solutions including Nature4Climate, Trillion Trees,  Global Wildlife Conservation, World Resources Institute, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and United Nations Development Programme.

“When we speak of nature-based solutions on land, we are referring to a broad range of critical actions. Chief among them are stopping deforestation, stopping forest degradation, restoring tree cover, and improving agricultural practices. Combined, we know these solutions will provide 30 percent of the emissions reductions we need to stem global warming and to achieve our path to carbon neutral by 2050.

“No matter what suite of climate solutions we pursue collectively or across regions or local scales —we must all recognize that the foundation of all climate solutions depends on the continuing function of the global land sink—a massive, beneficial carbon sink provided largely by the world’s great intact forests that soak up a quarter of all humanity’s carbon emissions each year.

“This vast global carbon sink is centered in specific regions around the world—the Amazon and Congo Basins, the northern boreal forests, and the island of New Guinea. These are the world’s great intact forests--they store 30 years’ worth of human-caused emissions but only make up a quarter of the world’s forest area. Intact forests are forests that are not (yet) significantly degraded by industrial activities like infrastructure development, logging, extractive industry, and large-scale commercial agriculture. They’re not only irreplaceable for the climate, but are also critical for addressing the biodiversity crisis and improving human development outcomes. Their resilience to fire, droughts and other threats makes them one of the best long-term bets for sustaining these services.

“It would be catastrophic if these forests shifted from being a sink to an emissions source. As it is, we have already lost at least 9 percent of all intact forests in the past 15 years, and are estimated to lose at least half by the end of the century. 

“Intact Forests are the foundation of all of our climate solutions. We face an urgent challenge to ensure the world’s great intact forests are a priority for meeting global climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development targets.

“We need international cooperation through sustained global financial and political commitments to better steward all of the world’s forests, and we must also quickly roll out incentives to keep these critical forests standing by supporting regions and countries to scale up proven approaches such as indigenous land tenure and improve land-use planning, protected areas, and smarter infrastructure.

“As we are dealing with a climate emergency, we no longer have the time or luxury of NOT following through on these commitments, and we intend to actively support and keep accountable those who have endorsed the Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Manifesto and made supporting commitments. 

“We look to the governments of Costa Rica, Chile, France, the Netherlands, and the UK – as hosts of key international conferences over the next 15 months – to support the initiative of China and New Zealand and help to lock in the necessary breadth and scale of nature-based solutions needed to achieve the 30x30 challenge, ensuring that 30 percent of climate crisis solutions are nature based.