Implement nature-based solutions to achieve climate goals: Panellists

Nature-based solutions refer to how nature can be harnessed to help tackle climate change. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Even amid a global push towards renewable energy, work to stop carbon emissions and deforestation needs to continue, and efforts must be made to implement nature-based climate solutions, an expert panel said on Tuesday (May 25).

Such solutions, which refer to how nature can be harnessed to help tackle climate change, have the power to help the world meet its climate goals, said Professor Koh Lian Pin, director of the Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

At a virtual discussion during the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, Prof Koh pointed to research that found the scale of such solutions can provide significant carbon dioxide mitigation. Examples of solutions include conservation, restoration and improved management of natural ecosystems such as forests and wetlands.

"As we focus our efforts on transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we must not forget to turn off the tap of carbon emissions, resulting from deforestation," said Prof Koh at the dialogue organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

"In fact, even if we manage to decarbonise, we still may not be able to meet our climate goals, unless we also figure out the science and the practice of implementing nature-based climate solutions."

Carbon dioxide, produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels for energy, is the main greenhouse gas driving climate change. Decarbonising means reducing the amount of carbon compounds released, including carbon dioxide, through methods such as using alternative sources of energy.

A 2017 paper, published in scientific journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, found that natural climate solutions can provide 37 per cent of cost-effective carbon dioxide mitigation needed till 2030 for a greater chance of holding global warming to less than 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels.

Another panellist, DBS chief sustainability officer Mikkel Larsen, noted that firms have a role in going green and highlighted Climate Impact X (CIX), a new global carbon exchange and marketplace announced last week.

CIX, a joint venture funded by DBS, Temasek Holdings, Standard Chartered and the Singapore Exchange, will offer platforms and products that cater to the needs of different buyers and sellers of carbon credits. Carbon trading essentially treats carbon as a commodity that can be bought and sold between less and more pollutive firms.

The CIX, which will have more partners as it scales up, will allow carbon credits to be sold through standardised contracts in an exchange, catering primarily to multinationals and institutional investors.

A broader spectrum of firms that want to participate in the voluntary carbon market will be accommodated as well, with projects in a marketplace that can help them meet sustainability objectives. These could involve protecting and restoring natural ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and mangroves.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, who was one of the dialogue's keynote speakers, also mentioned the CIX in her speech. She noted that it would focus on carbon credits generated through nature-based solutions, and technology, to gather data on emission reduction and removal projects to verify the quality of carbon credits generated.

"This is timely as the NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions estimates that preservation of tropical forests alone can generate US$46 billion (S$61 billion) worth of carbon credits annually, and there is potential in South-east Asia to generate large volumes of carbon credits from regional re-forestation projects and mangrove ecosystem," she said.

At the panel discussion, the secretary of Indonesia's Peat and Mangrove Restoration Agency, Dr Ayu Dewi Utari, emphasised the need for cooperation to tackle climate change, including having groups such as Asean work together with other groupings such as the European Union to scale up nature-based solutions.

In addition, Ms Fu and Indonesia's Minister for National Development Planning Suharso Monoarfa, who also gave a keynote address during the dialogue, referred to the importance of countries working together.

"In this changing world, we realise the importance of collaboration at a global level, especially among Asean countries to scale up conservation and restoration," said Mr Suharso.

"In the regional effort, especially in Asean, we can build a collaborative platform to facilitate knowledge sharing and learning between experts… government and other related stakeholders."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.