COP26: Climate Coalition Blasts ‘Nature-Based Solutions’

As the COP26 climate conference continues, critics of greenwashing have tried to warn global leaders against such distractions.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres greeting attendees at COP26 summit. (No 10 Downing Street, Simon Dawson)

By Jessica Corbett

Common Dreams

As a global climate summit continued in Glasgow, Scotland, an international coalition of advocacy groups warned world leaders that corporate polluters are pushing for “nature-based solutions” to capture planet-heating emissions so they can “keep burning fossil fuels, mine more of the planet, and increase industrial meat and dairy production.”

The coalition announced that a sign-on statement on the issue — which is open for signature through the end of 2021 — has so far been endorsed by 257 groups and 78 individuals from 61 countries.

“What corporations and big conservation groups call ‘nature-based solutions’ is a dangerous distraction,” the statement says, blasting companies from Microsoft and Nestlé to Shell, Total, and Unilever for “peddling a dangerous scam” that “is dressed up with unproven and flawed data.”

As the coalition explains:

“When corporations and big conservation groups talk about “nature,” they mean enclosed space devoid of people. They mean protected areas guarded by armed rangers, tree plantations, and large monoculture farms. Their “nature” is incompatible with nature understood as territory, as a life space inseparable from the cultures, food systems, and livelihoods of the communities who care for it and who see themselves as intrinsic parts of it. What’s more, behind a marketing front of genuine agroecology and natural regeneration initiatives, backers of “nature-based solutions” are preparing to advance yet more harmful practices such as monoculture tree plantations and industrial agriculture.”

Rather than helping the world tackle the climate emergency, the coalition continues, “the purported solutions will result in ‘nature-based dispossessions'” that negatively impact Indigenous peoples, peasants, and other forest-dependent communities.

Businesses and some nonprofits are advocating for such “scams” at the Scotland summit — COP26 — and beyond to “buy another decade or two of unrestrained corporate profiteering from fossil carbon extraction and industrial agriculture while increasing outside control over community territories,” the statement warns, urging governments to instead listen to the “growing movement of frontline communities, organizations, and activists for climate justice.”

Echoing a Monday letter supported by over 700 groups worldwide demanding “real climate solutions, not net-zero promises,” the coalition’s statement Tuesday asserts that “only a rapid, time-bound plan to leaving the remaining coal, oil, and gas reserves in the ground and industrial agriculture overhauled will avert catastrophic climate chaos.”

Focus on the Global South, one of a dozen organizations that launched the coalition, distinguished between industry-backed “nature-based solutions” and locally informed efforts to care for lands and waters.

Amazon rainforest near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. (Neil Palmer/CIAT, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Forests, soils, ecosystems, and biodiversity must be restored and protected for sure,” the group said. “But to meaningfully address the havoc wreaked by industrial agriculture, globalized industrial food systems, and global trade, we need systemic transformation such as agroecology, local sustainable food systems, short supply chains, and territorial markets.”

Focus on the Global South also reiterated that “the climate damage caused when corporations keep releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere cannot be offset through planting trees, protecting forests, restoring soils, or tweaking industrial farming practices.”

In the lead-up to COP26, signatories to the statement and other critics of greenwashing have tried to warn global leaders against such “dangerous” distractions. Last month, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) — the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation and another coalition initiator — put out a position paper on nature-based solutions.

Such false solutions are “a bad idea dressed up in acceptable terminology and beautiful imagery — a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” said Sara Shaw, co-author of FOEI’s paper. “The term sounds good but is so broad and vague that it can refer to anything — from real solutions such as Indigenous-based ecosystem restoration to damaging activities like monoculture tree plantations.”

“Much of what is being done in the name of nature-based solutions is little more than a repackaging of previously discredited market-based approaches,” she said, pointing to the example of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). “Companies must cut carbon emission at source, not go in for greenwashing and displacement activities.”

Fiore Longo, a research and advocacy officer at coalition member Survival International, made similar arguments in a recent opinion piece for Common Dreams, emphasizing the need for climate solutions rooted in justice.

Emissions offsetting schemes such as nature-based solutions, Longo wrote, “should be abandoned, and instead governments should put in place real regulations over companies and finance to tackle the real causes of environmental destruction: exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North.”

“We also need to decolonize our approaches and stop marginalizing and silencing Indigenous peoples and other local communities, who have been protecting our planet for generations,” she argued. “Finally, we need a radical change of our economic structure and of our way of living.”

This article is from  Common Dreams.

7 comments for “COP26: Climate Coalition Blasts ‘Nature-Based Solutions’

  1. November 5, 2021 at 13:47

    Nature didn’t CAUSE the problem, so it would be INSANE to expect IT to solve the problem for us!

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    November 4, 2021 at 07:00

    So many stories, so many facts, so many lies, so many deceptions…and it goes on and on. Another ‘greatest show on Earth’…

  3. November 3, 2021 at 18:56

    “Finally, we need a radical change of our economic structure and of our way of living.”

    that is the first order of a humanity based solution to the threat of gobal private profit focused capitalism. until we transform the world system to a public good first, long before personal marketplace killings, we will continue to suffer. of course capitaism is quite good for some of us, on the profit end. so was slavery among people who never owned or supported slavery. those of us on the losing end are growing in number and doing so faster than ever before. the market-private profit system is destroying earth and more of its people every day. it needs to be stopped, not by taxing garbage but ending the production of useless crap that kills more than it serves.

  4. Andrew Thomas
    November 3, 2021 at 17:29

    The most important event that occurred in Glasgow was Russia and China not showing up. It is about time that these bullshit conferences start getting treated as such. Nothing useful has ever come from any of them. That’s not a failing, it’s a feature. Designed that way by the US and its cohorts. The destroyers of a livable globe are finally getting at least from some quarters the complete disrespect they have earned. If this is the last of the 30 years of PR spectacles aimed at the credulous, at least some fossil fuel will go unused.

    • Skip Edwards
      November 4, 2021 at 16:06

      A brilliant reply to the world’s b… s… artists.

      “The most important event that occurred in Glasgow was Russia and China not showing up. It is about time that these bullshit conferences start getting treated as such.”

  5. Deborah Andrew
    November 3, 2021 at 15:18

    And then there is the ‘elephant in the room’ – de-militarization, closing of all US overseas military bases.

    • Skip Edwards
      November 4, 2021 at 16:10

      The fastest, easiest way to begin to solve our human caused climate crises is to address unabated human population growth.

Comments are closed.