We Cannot Tackle the Climate Crisis Without Restoring Nature
Nature in the UK is in rapid decline. Nearly half of our biodiversity has been lost since the industrial revolution1 and we rank as the worst country in Europe for nature connectedness2. Clearly businesses are missing not only the financial benefits of investing in nature-based solutions (NBS) to the climate crisis, but the carbon reductions and benefits to communities that come with them.
While the growth in interest about environment, social, governance (ESG) initiatives from investors and other businesses over recent years is encouraging to see, there has been little real action to protect and restore nature. Indeed, Business in the Community’s (BITC) Responsible Business Tracker® shows year on year that healthy ecosystems are the lowest business priority for action3 .
Investing wisely and thoughtfully in nature is one of BITC’s Seven Steps for Climate Action. With the sixth mass extinction seeing around 150 to 200 species disappearing every day4, there is no time to lose.
Our YouGov research with 8,000 people across the UK found that 79% of people saw ‘damage to nature’ and ‘biodiversity loss’ as top climate concerns. Nearly all (94%) thought businesses were either not doing enough to tackle damage to nature and biodiversity loss, or did not know what businesses were doing 5.
I have seen first-hand the results of developing NBS and the energy and enthusiasm that communities bring to these types of initiatives. BITC was privileged to be one of 12 partners in the IGNITION Project in Greater Manchester. This explored innovative ways NBS such as rain gardens, street trees, green roofs and walls could be financed.
The multifunctional benefits of NBS guarantee that the payback surpasses non-green alternatives. For example, green walls reduce flood risk by retaining more than 75% of rainwater runoff6 and provide excellent insulation, saving on heating and cooling.
On top of building resilience to climate risks there are strong links to community regeneration, with economic benefits. At the Swinton shopping centre near Manchester, initial assessments estimated that increased biodiversity would encourage people to spend more time in the area, benefitting local businesses. Through IGNITION, the centre showed how NBS increases savings and profits for local business owners. £40,000 was invested into 127m² of green space, leveraging around £450,000 natural capital benefits and seeing customer spending grow by 40%7.
Change is underway with the UK’s Environment Act setting out requirements such as biodiversity net gain for new developments, targets for water and biodiversity and establishing the Office for Environmental Protection as a watchdog for business and nature. Pressure from the Taskforce on Nature-Based Financial Disclosures (TNFD) to make disclosure mandatory and the Biodiversity Conference (COP) in China’s aim to set targets for nature in the same way as COP21 in Paris set targets for carbon reduction are more reasons to feel hopeful.
The IGNITION Project has shown that NBS create benefits for businesses and communities and will be essential to cut carbon emissions, improve air and water quality and build climate resilience, all part of a just transition.
It is time to stop pretending we can thrive while nature is not in good health and invest in nature-based solutions to protect the long-term prosperity of business and society.
Find out more about our work on nature and access IGNITION project resources on our nature stewardship page.
JOIN US TO WORK IT FAIRER,
- Patrick Barkham (2022) Britain ranks bottom in Europe for nature connectedness, The Guardian, 23 June.
- Business in the Community (2020) Responsible Business Tracker® 2019/20 Insights Report
- John Vidal (2010) Protect nature for world economic security, warns UN biodiversity chief, The Guardian, 16 August.
- Business in the Community (2020) Nature-based Solutions to the Climate Emergency – IGNITION project
- IGNITION project (n.d.) gmgreencity.com Business-led green regeneration: streetscapes and shopping centres, available at https://gmgreencity.com/resource-library/