Lucy Neiman, Zondits guest, 1/11/2023
Zondits and many other outlets have focused primarily on the transition to clean energy as the central path for addressing the challenges faced. Yet there is clear evidence that the transition away from fossil fuels alone cannot meet even the most conservative global climate goals that have been set. There are many significant reasons to conserve and protect our natural systems, and it is a growing realization that reducing carbon in the atmosphere is an important one. This series explores multiple ways that focused nature-based solutions can have positive impacts.
Part 1 in this series discusses the overall roadmap for implementing and expanding nature-based solutions. Future articles will focus in on food and agriculture, forestry, wetlands, ocean-based practices, and individual nature-based practices.
In late 2022, the Biden administration announced a U.S. Roadmap for Nature-Based Solutions at the COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt. The roadmap states that “one powerful source of solutions has been largely overlooked: nature” and represents a concerted effort by the federal government with investments of over $25 Billion to accelerate nature-based solutions and broadly promote the benefits. In the climate race, nature-based solutions complement the necessary technology solutions, can enhance their benefits, and are expected to contribute 20% to 30% toward our carbon reduction goals.
“Nature-based solutions …, sometimes called “natural climate solutions,” involve conserving, restoring, or better managing ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Examples include allowing forests to regrow, restoring coastal wetlands, and switching to restorative agricultural practices, such as cover crop rotation, that support healthy soils. These ecosystems reduce climate change by capturing CO2 from the air and sequestering it in plants, soils, and sediments. They also provide a wide range of other important benefits, such as cleaner air and water, economic benefits, and increased biodiversity.”
The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) builds upon the funding established in the previously enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) providing extensive funding for climate technology solutions such as renewable energy, reducing source greenhouse gas emissions, electrification, developing “green” Hydrogen, and energy efficiency. The bill also provides significant funding for nature-based solutions that can play a key role in carbon reduction while helping to mitigate the effects of climate change on communities and local economies.
The roadmap introduced at COP27 includes actions to address the loss of natural resources that mitigate climate change effects and focuses on climate change inequities with five strategic efforts:
- Updated policies – Government agencies are required to update federal policies to make it easier to use nature-based solutions including a new cost-benefit analysis national strategy that includes the benefits of nature-based solutions in financial analyses and removes cost-share requirements for underserved communities.
- Ramped-up funding – A focus on equity was a central theme at COP27 and that is reflected in the roadmap. Federal agencies are directed to use infrastructure financing for nature-based solutions to support resilient housing, roads and communities targeting underserved communities and protecting areas of highest climate risk from drought, wildfires, floods, and heat.
- Federal facilities to lead – Federal facilities will serve as models to demonstrate the benefits of nature-based solutions to improve facility resiliency and expand green stormwater infrastructure, green roofs, shoreline management, and other natural resource efforts. Success with federal facilities will serve as examples for similar projects and positively impact surrounding communities.
- Training the workforce – Success relies on a workforce trained in nature-based solutions to accelerate project progress and expand job opportunities, particularly in underserved areas. The roadmap encourages agencies to partner with educational and professional organizations to develop training, technical resources, and job standards for positions such as community planning, law, finance, ecology, engineering, construction, and maintenance of nature-based solutions.
- Research, innovation, knowledge and adaptive learning – While evidence exists that nature-based solutions benefit the environment, opinions differ on the effectiveness. For example, forestry and agricultural approaches for carbon sequestration can be quite controversial as policy makers consider investments. There is a need for measurement and verification of the benefits from these methods and research on best practices to achieve optimum results. The roadmap encourages evidence-building, adaptive management, and monitoring of nature-based solution effectiveness including a National Summit on Measuring What Matters to present measurement approaches.
The roadmap is supported by a resource guide with examples of nature-based solutions and resources, The Nature-Based Solutions Resource Guide. The roadmap expands the Biden administration’s continued leadership on climate and the commitment to improve resilience to extreme climate events, reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2005 levels, and conserve 30% of US lands and waters by 2030.
BIL and IRA Invest in Nature-Based Solutions
The roadmap is an addition to significant funding for nature-based solutions in the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act where forests, agriculture, and wetlands are a primary focus. Nature-based funding in these bills includes:
- $20B to farmers, ranchers, and private forest owners to increase carbon storage and reduce emissions
- $5B for forest management to reduce wildfire risk, store carbon, and cool communities
- $8.7B for climate resilience in transportation systems
- $8.6B to restore and conserve coastal habitats that buffer communities from storms and help local economies
- Funding to increase carbon stored in wetlands and grasslands, focusing on conservation and restoration
- $837.5M grants and $4B loans for resilient housing – HUD’s Green Resilient Retrofit Program funds and provides technical assistance for nature-based solutions to improve energy and water efficiency and climate resilience in housing
- $23B to protect watersheds through the EPA’s Clean Water funds and $1.9B to EPA’s Geographic, National Estuary and Gulf Hypoxia programs
- Simplified access to infrastructure funds that reduce flooding risk, benefit wildlife
- $1.5B for Climate Ready Coasts – a Department of Commerce initiative funding high impact natural infrastructure projects to build economic resilience, create jobs, store carbon, and restore habitat
The combined efforts of the Roadmap with the two funding initiatives (IRA, BIL) represent the first time the federal government has put forth a coordinated plan to address an often-overlooked component of the climate equation, the impact of nature on climate change. There is reason to be optimistic about this focus, as it provides an additional approach to reducing GHG contributions without detracting from any of the other investments in fighting climate change. It also addresses the concern that a focus on electrification of homes and vehicles risks leaving disadvantaged communities behind. Zondits looks forward to progress in the coming years, as these efforts evolve.
Additional reading on nature-based solutions:
- AmericanUniversity.edu article: Fact Sheet: Nature-based Solutions to Climate Change
- WhiteHouse.gov article: Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Roadmap for Nature-Based Solutions to Fight Climate Change, Strengthen Communities, and Support Local Economies
- WhiteHouse.gov article: Opportunities to Accelerate Nature-Based Solutions: A Roadmap for Climate Progress, Thriving Nature, Equity & Prosperity
- WhiteHouse.gov article: A New National Strategy to Reflect Natural Assets on America’s Balance Sheet
- Department of Energy article: Sustainable Climate-Ready Sites
- WorldBank.org article: What You Need to Know About Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change
- Center for Regenerative Solutions website: naturebasedclimate.solutions
- The Nature Conservancy article: Natural Climate Solutions