Biodiversity and Net Zero – the critical importance of COP27
It is well recognised that the world’s natural capital has been, and continues to be, ‘mined’ and consequently depleted in exchange for financial and economic capital. Essentially, nature has subsidised our growth and prosperity over the past four centuries. Agricultural intensification and built development have dramatically altered the planet and the tipping point has been reached. Global biodiversity is in a critical state whilst closer to home the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world with a 60% decline in species abundance over the past 50 years.
The global human population now consumes the annual output of three planets - we have to change our approach to nature if we are to secure our future. The existential threat of biodiversity loss is equal to that of climate change – it is imperative that biodiversity restoration is a key element of our race to Net Zero; they are inextricably linked and this message needs to be a fundamental outcome of COP27.
The economic futures of corporate business and hence society are inextricably linked to natural capital and ecosystem function – 55% of global GDP relies on what nature provides. Biodiversity richness provides our food, clean air, clean and abundant water, it stores carbon, mitigates flood risk, maintains pollinator populations, and provides stability to natural ecosystems, underpinning resilience against future shocks. But one-fifth of these ecosystem services, services we depend on, are on the verge of collapse.
We therefore need a systematic approach to put back substantially more nature than we consume each year, in doing so, rebuilding ecosystem functionality. Whilst corporate business has to now meet net zero targets in terms of emissions, it must also become ‘Nature Positive’. Only by adopting a Nature Positive regime will the natural environment be restored at the scale and speed necessary to avert a collapse in the ecosystems on which we rely.
Today, 16 November 2022 is biodiversity day at COP 27 and while the exact outcomes won't be known until the conference ends, COP27's president has labelled it as 'the implementation COP', with the goal of holding nations to their pledges on carbon emissions cuts. But it’s equally important for our very survival that addressing the critical levels of biodiversity loss across our planet is deep-seated in the solution.