International Union for the Conservation of Nature launches guidelines to help businesses and governments design effective tree planting and nature restoration projects that align with climate targets
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has launched a set of global standards for 'nature-based solutions' such as reforestation, sustainable agriculture and coatal protection, in an effort to establish more stringent guidelines for environmental projects increasingly touted by governments and businesses as they work towards climate goals.
The Global Standard on Nature-based Solutions, unveiled by the IUCN today, aims to measure and verify the economic, environmental and social benefits of tree planting, green infrastructure, habitat protection, acquaculture and other projects invested in by companies, organisations and governments to offset emissions elsewhere.
More than 130 countries have embraced nature-based solutions in national climate plans drawn up to comply with the Paris Agreement, according to IUCN, but while nature-based solutions are gaining major traction from governments and corporates as a means to fight the climate and biodiversity crises, there is a lack of consensus over what actually constitutes nature-based solutions and how to measure their impact.
IUCN therefore hopes businesses, communities, governments and civil society will use the Standard's self assessment tool and user guide to design transparent environmental interventions that align with climate targets.
Stewart Maginnis, global director for the IUCN's Nature-Based Solutions Group, said the standard was designed to ensure all actions labelled as nature-based solutions provide their anticipated benefits, while maximising their potential to address climate change, biodiversity loss and other societal challenges.
"The world is looking for durable and effective options to tackle global challenges such as climate change, food and water security, and now, economic recovery from the global pandemic," he said, adding that the new nature-based solutions standard was "ideally placed to harness and accelerate the sustainable use of nature".
"For nature-based solutions to fulfil their potential, we must ensure that the actions put in place today bring about the desired benefits for society and biodiversity, said Maginnis. "This global standard offers a rigorous, consistent and accountable framework that will help avoid any misuse and take nature-based solutions from the local to global scale."
Angela Andrade, chair of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, said the "scientifically robust" standard had been developed with input from more than 800 experts across 100 countries.
"Until now, there has been neither consensus nor coherent guidance on how to design and implement nature-based solution interventions that are capable of consistent delivery of benefits for people and nature," she said.
The announcement follows fresh analysis from Friends of the Earth in the UK today suggesting England has enough potential land space to triple its tree cover without encroaching on peat bogs and other key habitats and climate sinks.
England's tree cover could be increased from 10 per cent to 35 per cent within just a few years, accounting for an additional 3.2m hectares of trees, according to the green campaign group's analysis of data from the Forestry Commission. Such a boost in tree covery could generate significant carbon savings and environmental benefits for the country, it said.
"Restoring forests in England has huge potential for fighting the climate and nature crisis," said Guy Shrubsole, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "This data, which the government seems to ignore, shows how much land there is for this - all without impacting pre-existing key habitats. But Ministers are still failing to grow enough trees, and even failed to set a target in the recent England Tree Strategy. This must change."
He called on the government to boost its ambition on forestry by setting out a plan that "at least" doubles tree cover.
It follows a suite of Covid-19 recovery measures announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month which saw him reaffirm the Conservative Party's manifesto commitent to plant 30 million trees - or 75,000 hectares - a year by 2025, a programme that would boost tree cover in the UK to 16.25 per cent by mid-century if it were maintained.
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