Close to Home: Bring nature-based solutions to climate change

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

I had the honor of attending COP26, the recently concluded U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a team of delegates representing Point Blue Conservation Science, a Petaluma-based nonprofit. Point Blue participated as an official observer in order to promote nature-based solutions to the global climate crisis. We think it’s critical to keep nature — and science — at the forefront of the global conversation around climate.

Like any global summit, COP26 is receiving mixed reviews. The main goal was to bring together government and nonstate actors from 147 countries to develop a “rule book” for how to implement the Paris agreement, an international treaty on climate change adopted at COP21. The agreement set a goal of limiting future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Liz Chamberlin
Liz Chamberlin

While reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels still must be a global priority if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, nature-based solutions — which provide both mitigation and adaptation benefits — have the potential to represent up to 30% of the total climate solution by 2030.

These powerful actions not only sequester carbon from the atmosphere, they provide additional benefits such as habitat creation for wildlife, flood risk mitigation, improved water quality and economic and health benefits.

Nature-based solutions offer both climate benefits and critical protection of the ecosystems we depend upon.

It was particularly encouraging in Glasgow to experience what was the greatest focus to date on nature and biodiversity at a Conference of the Parties — the COP in COP26.

In California, where we are literally on the front lines of climate change and are experiencing increasingly frequent and severe impacts such as wildfires, flooding and heat waves, the opportunities for nature-based solutions abound.

In the Bay Area, Point Blue has promoted the use of coastal nature-based adaptations for sea level rise, including restoration of tidal marshes in the San Francisco estuary.

We also participate in Sierra Meadow headwater climate-smart restoration projects that restore hydrological function to these critical habitats while sequestering carbon.

On California’s vast working lands, our scientists help producers implement regenerative practices that sequester carbon while promoting healthy soils and creating habitat for wildlife.

COP26 was encouraging because, for the first time, biodiversity was strongly emphasized throughout the summit. At the conclusion, the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity was highlighted in the conference text, which noted “the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including in forests, the ocean and the cryosphere, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and also noting the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice,’ when taking action to address climate change.”

While an explicit reference to nature-based solutions in U.N. climate framework documents would help drive implementation of these measures along with clear and science-backed metrics for success, this omission underscores the importance of California’s leadership on prioritizing biodiversity and nature-based solutions as integral parts of its climate strategy.

It’s encouraging to see California’s leadership on biodiversity, including Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order on nature-based solutions, as well as the state’s emphasis on including biodiversity and nature-based solutions in its strategies around natural and working lands.

As California advances efforts to mitigate and adapt to future climate change, we encourage the state to prioritize nature-based adaptation measures to achieve climate resilience. Additionally, we encourage the adoption of science-driven and transparent indicators of success of natural solutions.

California has the opportunity to demonstrate how effective nature-based solutions can be for mitigating climate change and helping communities adapt to the climate future that is already here.

Liz Chamberlin, an ecologist, is director of Strategic Innovations for Point Blue Conservation Science in Petaluma.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

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