Catalyzing Nature-based Solutions for Climate and Biodiversity Action: Global Commitments to Local Action

F.P. Report

Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt: Monica Medina, Assistant SecretaryBureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs has said to the side event in UNFCCC Pavilion, Thank you so much to IUCN for bringing us all together today to engage in this important conversation. I am thrilled to be with you all. I have been privileged to spend many years working on nature-based solutions and am lucky to be able to continue to lead this work on behalf of the State Department.

As we all strive to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing world, we must recognize that we need to unlock the power of nature to help us sequester and store additional carbon, stabilize climate cycles, and adapt to climate impacts. Essentially, we need nature to reach net zero.

The United States is committed to conserving nature.  As President Biden stated, the best part is we don’t have to develop any new technologies.  We just have to make clear forests are more valuable when they’re preserved than when they’re destroyed.  It’s that basic.

We believe nature-based solutions offer an efficient, effective, and flexible means to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Last week, the White House released our Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap, an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path that will unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions to address climate change, nature loss, and inequity. This marks the first time the U.S. has developed a strategy to scale up nature-based solutions.

To demonstrate how the U.S. is already taking action, the Administration also announced new and recent interagency commitments aligned with the roadmap, including: agency actions to ensure over $25 billion in infrastructure and climate funding can support nature-based solutions; a new guide for bringing the power of nature to maximize the value and resilience of military bases; and a new technical working group to better account for nature-based options in benefit cost analysis – a powerful tool for federal decisions.

Conserving, restoring, and sustainably managing ecosystems is an essential part of our climate solution toolkit.

These solutions include actions that protect coasts and critical marine ecosystems, reduce flooding and moderate extreme heat while replenishing groundwater sources.

They also capture and store carbon dioxide, conserve biodiversity, and improve the productivity of agricultural and forest lands to produce food and fiber.

Ecosystems, both on land and in the ocean, are currently the best carbon storage system we have.  Nature-based solutions – just on land – can provide at least 1/3 of the emissions reduction potential that is needed to keep the 1.5 degree C target within reach. However, they are often overlooked, under resourced, or deprioritized.

As a megadiverse country, the U.S. has employed various forms of nature-based solutions at state, local and tribal levels for many years, reflecting decades of research and experimentation.

This extensive background provides a strong foundation for scaling-up and expanding the use and deployment of nature-based solutions across sectors and ecosystem types.

It further demonstrates that well-designed nature-based solutions can be cost-effective, outlast conventional options, and provide multiple benefits, often beyond what conventional options provide.

Successful nature-based solutions projects span scales and ecosystem types – including the urban and built environment – and they emphasize collaboration with Indigenous peoples and local communities.

President Biden has prioritized the use of nature-based solutions for climate, society, and biodiversity. In one of his first executive orders, President Biden committed to conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. land and waters by 2030. Last year, at COP26, President Biden announced the US Plan to Conserve Global Forests:  Critical Carbon Sinks.

Since then, we have driven progress forward in each of The Plan’s four key objectives, including building a whole-of-government approach to deliver on this ambitious plan to halt and reverse deforestation by leveraging a range of diplomatic, policy, and financing tools.

In the United States, our Environmental Protection Agency is harnessing nature-based solutions to tackle many environmental challenges, including rain and stormwater management, coastal protection, and green infrastructure.

Our Army Corps of Engineers is turning to nature-based solutions to help with flood control and storm surge in low lying areas like Miami. And cities like Los Angeles are working to increase their urban tree canopy to help reduce urban heat.

The Biden Administration is using the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to bring unprecedented levels of investment to nature-based solutions. With $27 billion directed to forest management actions that can reduce wildfire risk and store carbon, we are placing nature front and center in the climate fight

We are equally committed to harnessing the power of ocean-based climate solutions that often offer co-benefits for biodiversity and local communities.

Unfortunately, many of these solutions – like mangrove restoration – are overlooked due to high upfront costs that don’t consider co-benefits – such as biodiversity recovery, flood protection, and food security.

The United States is pleased to be galvanizing more ambitious action for protecting our marine resources through our Ocean Conservation Pledge, which commits countries to conserve or protect at least 30percent of ocean waters under their jurisdiction by 2030.

This effort complements the action that needs to be taken in the high seas and the Antarctic region, in order to conserve and protect at least 30 percent of the global ocean.

I am looking forward to hearing from all of our esteemed panelists here today.

And, I hope these actions, and our discussion, begins to lay out a collective pathway for catalyzing transformative action and serves as a reminder that we need to make Nature-based solutions more second nature. Thank you.