Home » Environment » Letting Nature Lead the Way in Solving Two Environmental Crises

Natural climate solutions can be a cost-effective, long-term strategy to save endangered species, mitigate climate change, and stimulate the economy.

There are two environmental crises facing the planet: mass species extinction and climate change. While the causes of each are complex, human economic and industrial activity affecting forests, wetlands, and peatlands plays a key role.   

Canada’s boreal forest soil, plants and wetlands hold more than 12% of the world’s land-based carbon stock, the equivalent of more than 35 years of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. This diverse ecosystem also supports about two thirds of Canada’s known wildlife species and nesting and breeding habitat for half of Canada’s bird species, including up to 3 million migrating birds each year. Between 1996 and 2015, more than 11 million hectares of Canadian boreal forests were logged.

Similarly, other wetlands such as marshes, bogs, fens, swamps, and open water, play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. One-third of global peatlands are in Canada’s arctic and subarctic regions and store about 25% of the world’s peatland carbon. Like the boreal forests, these landscapes provide hundreds of species with safe places to eat, sleep, and rear their young. In settled areas, up to 70% of wetlands and peatlands have been destroyed, degraded, or drained for farming, new buildings and homes, mining, logging, and roads.

Natural climate solutions make a positive impact on wildlife and climate

Fortunately, Canadians can make a positive impact on these twin ecological challenges through simple and cost-effective actions and initiatives that harness the power of nature.

These initiatives are called natural climate solutions and involve protecting, restoring, and improving land management practices for the benefit of both people and nature.

Protecting and restoring forests and wetlands helps to remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the environment and ensure the continued survival of the diverse wildlife species that call these regions home. Improving land management practices through Indigenous-led protection of their territories, better municipal stewardship of environmentally-sensitive areas, and regenerative agriculture help to reduce our carbon footprint while preserving natural habitat.

In urban settings, green infrastructure such as green roofs helps support biodiversity while also making cities more livable. In addition to building resilience against floods, heatwaves, air pollution, fires, and storms, this green infrastructure helps to cool the air, absorb excess water, and reduce energy use.

Green roof on an urban building. Photo by: Chuttersnap

Natural climate solutions an investment in our future

A Nature United study conducted with 16 other research institutions suggests that natural climate solutions could reduce Canada’s greenhouse carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 78 megatons a year in 2030 — more than 10% of Canada’s total emissions.

Accordingly, the Canadian federal government is committing $630 million over 10 years for natural climate solutions to reduce emissions and protect biodiversity; and more than $3 billion over the next five years to deliver on a commitment to protect 25% of Canada’s land, water, and ocean by 2025, and 30% by 2030.

Investing in natural climate solutions is a powerful way to help endangered species and reduce our collective carbon footprint — and can be an integral part of the bigger climate strategy.

Natural climate solutions can also benefit our economy by creating new jobs or new revenue streams for Canadian Indigenous communities, farmers, ranchers, and foresters.

For the nature advocates, natural climate solutions provide a unique opportunity to get involved and make a difference. Whether you are an individual or represent an organization, you can learn more about Nature Canada’s upcoming work and how you can help by adding your name to their Natural Climate Solutions list.. 

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