Reducing dependence on fossil fuels requires a long time to decrease emissions. A rapid transformation of the existing energy systems and infrastructure is also a slow process. But, natural climate solutions are already available if we want to limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.There is a continuing imbalance in investment in nature-based solutions despite being cost-effective. Still, a quarter of the world’s governments hasn’t prioritised natural climate solutions to address climate change. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that, by 2030, up to a third of its annual land-based emissions reductions targets could be achieved at a cost of $20 or less per carbon tonnes. While the transition to low carbon energy will take decades, natural climate solutions could provide a biological bridge to a low-carbon future in the near-term.
Justin Adams, in a new study produced by the Nature Conservancy, has addressed some of the most promising ways to mitigate climate change are what we call “natural climate solutions”: Conservation, restoration, and improved management of land, in order to increase carbon storage in land areas worldwide.
Along with 15 other leading institutions, this study has prioritised the protection of “frontier forests” – that serve as natural carbon sinks. The preservation of frontier habitats also helps regulate water flows, reduces the risk of flooding, and maintains biodiversity. Secondly, it also emphasises on the reforestation, as an estimated 4.9 billion acres of land has been deforested or degraded globally. According to their study, it has been estimated, the world could capture three gigatons of CO2 annually. Thirdly, it has highlighted agricultural reform, as the food sector is a major contributor to climate change through direct and indirect emissions, and by its often-negative effects on soil health and deforestation.
Research tells us that reforestation is the single largest nature-based climate mitigation opportunity we have. In addition, reforestation provides cleaner water, cleaner air, flood control, and more fertile soils, not to mention wood products and tree crops. Reforesting these lands would sequester billions of tons of carbon dioxide without disrupting food production.
The coastal wetlands are also an imperative, as it is known as ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems. Around the globe, many coastal wetlands are converted for agriculture, aquaculture or urban development. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, mangrove forests are converted for aquaculture, palm oil production, and rice farming. For us, conversion of coastal wetlands is possible to new forms keeping the natural bio-diversity, as Bangladesh is blessed with the largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.
As an example, Bangladesh has adopted a few natural climate solutions like reforestation and projects like protecting coastal wetlands. We know, an estimated 35 million people of 19 coastal districts are vulnerable to climate change which may result in over 25 million climate refugees due to global warming by 2050.
Already, in 2009, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has introduced ‘Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change through Coastal Afforestation (CBACC)’ in coastal areas of Bangladesh. This programme is an example of drawing together climate change adaptation and economic development through 9,000 ha. of mangrove afforestation.
After the successful completion of the first phase of the project, in 2016, UNDP has initiated ‘Integrating Community-based Adaptation into Afforestation and Reforestation (ICBA-AR) Programmes to reduce the vulnerability of communities to the adverse impacts of climate change through participative design, community-based management, and diversification of afforestation and reforestation programmes.
With the help of the Bangladesh Forest Department, this project aims to reforest 650 ha. of degraded mangroves with 12 different species to enhance the resilience of mangrove through diversification.
It has become possible for the adoption of Fish-Fruit-Forest (FFF) model to climate risk in the coastal area, which is now providing agricultural, fisheries, livestock and innovative livelihood support to poor communities.
It has also engaged local communities in coastal forest management and sharing forest benefits among others. Around 10,500 poor local households are projected to be benefitted from the project. In 2017 the project reached 2,310 households of which round 44% beneficiaries are female.
Now, the international award-winning Fish-Fruit- Forest (FFF) model is being used in the coastline to reduce climate vulnerability of the coastal poor communities and lift them out of poverty.
(The writer, a communication graduate from University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), is a freelance journalist at Climate Tracker. firstname.lastname@example.org)