Into the mainstream
Thankfully, the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis have finally entered the collective consciousness. We acknowledge their existence and their fundamental importance. They are the reasons we do what we do as environmental professionals, but we rarely equate them, in either practical terms or in the common ‘sustainability consultancy parlance’, forgetting the crucial point that these two existential risks are not mutually exclusive.
Of course, we are not addressing the climate emergency exclusively through biodiversity related interventions, meaning industry’s response includes many non-nature-based solutions. However, in accepting the unquestionable facts that functioning ecosystems underpin natural capital stocks and inherent climate resilience, we therefore accept that nature-based solutions are a key priority in meeting climate targets for both adaptation and mitigation.
Nature based solutions
Nature based solutions are actions which embrace biodiversity to address societal issues, providing mutual benefits for nature and people. These may include the provision of urban green infrastructure like living roofs, or the planting of new woodland, all in a strategic manner to address identifiable need. Core to the concept of nature based solutions is the role of biodiversity in maintaining systems upon which humans rely. This includes underpinning natural capital and accordingly influencing our ability to combat and adapt to climate change.
The notion of valuing assets (be that land or buildings) in terms of their financial performance alone is surely therefore outdated. This statement is nothing new for those familiar with Natural Capital Accounting or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting. In recent years this been further mainstreamed with initiatives such as GRESB or importantly the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) allowing companies to assess and report on their sustainability or climate risk performance. The TCFD principles set out risks in two broad categories, Transition Risk and Physical Risk. Included within these categories are aspects including the risk of transitioning to net zero, the exposure to physical climate risk and the risks from potential litigation related to climate. However, it remains an unfamiliar concept in terms of our consideration of biodiversity as commercial ecologists, notwithstanding our new-found familiarity with delivering Biodiversity Net gain (BNG) through planning.