This could be the start of a revolution to save nature

This article was written by Andrea Mandel-Campbell and was published in the Toronto Star on July 29, 2022.

A hot summer has sparked wildfires around the world this year, from California to Italy.

It’s funny how things happen. Thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many a pundit has been quick to predict the end of net-zero carbon goals; the push for environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practices; and the viability of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

And then along came a recordbreaking summer heat wave that buckled rail lines in the U.K., has literally combusted homes and fuel tankers, and sparked massive wildfires in Spain, France and Italy — and again in California and B.C.

Opting out of the climate crisis clearly not an option. We need to get ready for the next revolution in the fight to save the planet: protecting and restoring what is left of our natural world. And by “we,” I don’t just mean government or NGOs. Business, including Canadian companies, will need to step up, and in a big way.

With one million species now threatened with extinction and 10 million hectares of tree cover disappearing every year, new global commitments and corporate financial disclosures are coming down the pipeline that will require a whole new level of accountability, as well as significant private sector investment.

As part of a new global framework soft launched in 2021, the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, companies will soon be expected to report on their environmental impact and their exposure to nature loss. And at an upcoming United Nations meeting in Montreal this December, a global pact to preserve 30 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity by 2030 is at the top of the agenda.

It’s a recognition, albeit late, that nature loss is a systemic risk to the global economy — and that its protection is critical to fighting climate change. According to the UN, more than half of the global economy is dependent on nature in some form. Failure to address overexploitation has a direct impact on human health, jobs and corporate bottom lines, not to mention the integrity of the planet.

But beyond the UN communiqués and paperwork that will keep corporate compliance officers busy, what does it actually mean to put nature at the heart of economic decision-making? Because that’s what it will take — in both the private and public sector, and at a strategic as well as local implementation level — to achieve meaningful change.

It means that when it comes to key sectors of our economy, we aren’t draining wetlands to build the next Amazon warehouse or subdivision. And we aren’t cutting new logging roads into ancient forests that are the last redoubt of the woodland caribou (critically endangered throughout Canada, despite being on our quarter).

There are some indications that business is starting to get it. Vancouver-based Mosaic Forest Management recently announced it was deferring the harvest of 40,000 hectares of old-growth forest along the B.C. coast, opting to sell credits on the 10 million tonnes of CO2 that will be stored instead. Teck Resources, a B.C. mining company, is donating 14,000 hectares of land in Canada and Chile, along with $22.6 million to conservation efforts in a bid to be “nature-positive” by 2030.

But we need to get a whole lot more ambitious. The UN estimates investments in so-called “naturebased solutions” — investments in the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of forests and oceans and in regenerative agriculture — will need to triple to $400-billion U.S. a year by 2030 “if we are to have a shot at solving the planetary emergency.”

Private capital, which currently represents just 14 per cent of all investments in nature, will need to scale substantially.

Given the dour predictions around simply meeting our climate goals, saving nature may seem impossible. But this wouldn’t be the first time that “the end” of something has been wrongly predicted. Sometimes, it’s a signal that it’s just the beginning.

Author: Ray Nakano

Ray is a retired, third generation Japanese Canadian born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario along with his 4 younger sisters. He resides in Toronto where he worked for the Ontario Government for 28 years. Ray currently practises in 2 Buddhist traditions: Jodo Shinshu and that of Thich Nhat Hanh. Ray is passionate about climate action and very concerned about our Climate Crisis. He has been actively involved in the ClimateFast group (https://climatefast.ca) for the past 3 years. He works to bring awareness of our Climate Crisis to others. He has created the myclimatechange.home.blog website, for tracking climate-related news articles, reports, and organizations. He is always looking for opportunities through the work of ClimateFast to reach out to communities, politicians, and governments to communicate about our Climate Crisis. He is married and has 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. He says: “Our world is in dire straits. Doing nothing is not an option. We must do everything we can to create a liveable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations.”

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