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Rubbish arriving at Batumi Garbage Dump, Georgia. © Stephanie Foote / Fauna & Flora

Rubbish arriving at Batumi Garbage Dump, Georgia. © Stephanie Foote / Fauna & Flora

Four ways businesses can drive climate action – with nature as their ally

Written by: Libby Sandbrook

There is a clear need for leadership and determined action from the business community to tackle climate change. It’s not only the right thing to do, but the most business-savvy.

Fauna & Flora Business & Nature Director, Libby Sandbrook explains why.

Now more than ever, the impacts of global warming are being felt across the world, with escalating weather events having catastrophic consequences for people, their livelihoods and nature.

The impacts of climate change are also, of course, having a real and accelerating impact on the corporate sector and business revenue. It’s estimated that weather and climate-related events cost the global economy USD 313 billion in 2022, and this number is only set to grow.

What has the business world done so far?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen companies across sectors establishing their climate commitments and action plans, with many setting all-important science-based corporate net zero targets. The private sector is also coming together to make bold and decisive calls to action. In October 2023, for example, more than 130 companies (including the likes of Ikea, Unilever, Nestlé, and AstraZeneca) signed a letter calling on governments to adopt a global plan to phase out fossil fuels and “ramp up clean energy”; laying out clearly corporate intentions for the energy transition.

During the COP28 climate conference, businesses have an opportunity to further engage in the global climate action debate, and use their influence to demand tangible and actionable change from governments. While companies are increasingly committing to their own timelines for reducing their emissions, many acknowledge that their ability to slow planet-warming CO2 emissions is contingent on faster action from governments. To drive corporate action across the board – and to level the playing field – government-led policy and regulation is essential.

Kristian Teleki in discussion with Kenya’s President Ruto at NY Climate Week. © Joe Short

Kristian Teleki in discussion with Kenya’s President Ruto at NY Climate Week. © Joe Short

Kristian Teleki in discussion with Kenya’s President Ruto at NY Climate Week.

Peat swamp. © Ady Kristanto / Fauna & Flora

Peat swamp. © Ady Kristanto / Fauna & Flora

Peatlands store vast amounts of carbon whilst providing key habitats for wildlife.

Responding to the urgency for action

But, while policy is being established, businesses cannot delay; action must be taken now to tackle climate change and this action must focus on protecting nature too. Nature plays a critical role in regulating the climate, with ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and mangroves absorbing a significant proportion of man-made carbon emissions. Scaling up actions to protect, better manage and restore nature can provide a further one-third of the global emissions reductions needed by 2030, while also saving vulnerable species and habitats, and supporting the livelihoods of communities around the globe.

Fauna & Flora recommends businesses focus on the following steps to take action fast, with people and nature sitting at the heart of climate action.

1. Underpin long-term net-zero goals with credible short-term target

It’s not just where we get to, but how we get there that matters. To keep 1.5°C within reach, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 and decline rapidly thereafter. Long-term net-zero corporate goals must be underpinned by credible short-terms targets, detailed implementation plans and adequate finance.

Developing strategies for protecting nature with urgency is also essential; the more nature is degraded, so too is its capacity to help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Lionfish © Michelangelo Pignani / Fauna & Flora

Lionfish © Michelangelo Pignani / Fauna & Flora

Climate change is warming the waters of the eastern Mediterranean. As a result, non-native species including lionfish are flooding in from the Indo-Pacific through the Suez Canal. These unwelcome invaders pose a serious threat to Türkiye’s marine ecosystem.

2. Be mindful of unintended drivers of biodiversity loss

Businesses must be mindful to ensure that decarbonisation efforts do not cause new drivers of nature destruction. Technical innovation will have a critical role to play in the green transition but must be approached with care. For example, Fauna & Flora highlights the importance of a global

moratorium on deep-sea mining, given the profound risks of destabilising deep ocean ecosystems – and potentially exacerbating climate impacts – in a race to secure critical minerals for technologies such as electric vehicle batteries.

3. Bring nature into climate action

There is no pathway to net zero without the protection and restoration of nature, and all companies should be incorporating nature into their climate action plans. First, companies will need to understand their relationship with nature, including the negative impacts caused by their operations and value chain.

Once this relationship is understood, companies should look to mitigate their impacts, and go beyond this to have a net positive impact on nature; putting it at the heart of decision-making and creating robust biodiversity action plans for their operations and value chain.

Companies should then look for opportunities to invest in nature to directly contribute to their net zero commitments, alongside a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use. This could include investing in high integrity nature-based solutions to climate change that not only sequester carbon, but support biodiversity and help local communities to thrive too. Nature-based solutions should only be applied in the context of wider decarbonisation priorities and should be developed to high standards that deliver core benefits for biodiversity, people and climate.

4. Support producers and communities within your value chain with climate adaptation strategies

The world is now at a stage where ensuring we can adapt to the impacts of climate change is as critical as mitigating it. Businesses have a responsibility to help the producers and vulnerable communities that are impacted by – and dependent on – their activities to adapt to the effects of global warming.

Nature should, again, sit at the heart of corporate climate adaptation plans. Healthy, biodiverse ecosystems are the cornerstone of climate resilience, and ecosystem-based adaptation has a critical role to play in reducing the impacts of climate change, while at the same time delivering additional benefits for people and biodiversity. Locally-led, inclusive and rights-based approaches should be central to ecosystem-based adaptation action.

Nicaraguan farmer. © Karina Berg / Fauna & Flora

Nicaraguan farmer. © Karina Berg / Fauna & Flora

A Nicaraguan farmer.

How Fauna & Flora can help

Fauna & Flora has been working with businesses to understand their relationship with nature for over 20 years, drawing on our technical expertise and practical ‘on the ground’ understanding of how to create a real impact for nature, people and the climate.

Libby Sandbrook profile picture

Libby Sandbrook

Business & Nature Director, Fauna & Flora

Libby is the Director of Fauna & Flora’s Business & Nature Programme. She is a social scientist and environmental economist with over 25 years of experience of working within the private sector towards sustainability goals. Libby recently joined Fauna & Flora from The Prince’s Responsible Business Network where she led collaborative initiatives bringing senior business leaders together to tackle climate change, nature loss and resource use.