Nature-based solutions (Nbs) are a key part of the solution to climate change. In fact, we’ve committed our business to invest in nature-based solutions because the science and economics shows tree planting is a critical component of any scenario for a sustainable future.
What are Nature-Based Solutions?
Nature-based solutions are carbon projects that work with natural features and processes to remove or avoid carbon emissions. They do it by protecting, sustainably managing, or restoring ecosystems. Generally, they fall into three main categories:
The first, forestry projects, are the reigning champs — they provide the vast majority of NbS credits in the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), and are generally considered to have the greatest potential to deliver large-scale climate change mitigation along with other benefits.
They can include:
- Forest conservation projects
- Improved forest management
- Projects designated as ARR — an acronym for Afforestation, Reforestation and Revegetation. ARR projects restore degraded forest land, reforest previously forested land, or convert non-forest land to forests through human intervention
Agricultural projects are another major NbS category, which includes:
- ‘Regenerative agriculture’ practices that sequester soil carbon, such as low-till or no-till practices, cover crop rotation, and biochar
- Activities to reduce emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, like livestock and fertilizer management
- ‘Agroforestry’ — where trees are planted in the same land areas used for crops or livestock
- Projects to restore and avoid the conversion of grasslands
Wetlands projects — including coastal wetlands and peatlands — get extra points for holding the greatest amount of carbon stocks per unit area of any ecosystem. Often referred to as ‘Blue Carbon,’ these types of projects include:
- Avoiding conversion or degradation of coastal ecosystems
- Restoring mangroves, marshes, and seagrasses
- Enhancing the growth of kelp or shellfish
- Rewetting of drained peatlands, and restoration of peatland vegetation
Why Are Nature-Based Solutions So Important?
There are several reasons why nature-based carbon credits are an attractive option for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
One of the biggest advantages of NbS? Scale. Nature has been absorbing and storing carbon dioxide for millions of years, and is well-equipped to continue doing so at a large scale. This makes NbS one of the most reliable and cost-effective ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change. Tropical forests alone have a global opportunity to address 23% of CO2 emissions by 2030.
Nature-based solutions also offer a host of environmental co-benefits beyond carbon reduction — improving air quality or protecting biodiversity, for instance. They often also provide economic and social benefits, like employment, training and food security.
These co-benefits can be especially important for companies looking to not only reduce their carbon emissions, but also to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, community, and environmental stewardship.
No credible path to net zero without them
Above all, nature-based solutions are necessary. The IPCC has made it clear that there is no credible pathway to limiting the worst effects of climate change without nature-based carbon sequestration. And in a seminal 2021 report, The Taskforce on Scaling the Voluntary Carbon Market found that the VCM needs to grow to 15 times its size by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5°C…and get this: they say at least two-thirds of carbon credits generated per year should come from NbS.
Alternative Options and Their (Current) Limitations
Within the world of carbon removal, many alternatives to nature-based offsets are being explored and developed — such as technology-based solutions like direct air capture. These engineered solutions certainly appear promising for future efforts — Aspiration’s own VP of Capital Markets, Matt Tetreau, predicts that technological solutions will bring more volume to the market over time.
However, tech-based solutions will need to grow significantly before they can possibly reach the same levels of scalability and cost-effectiveness as nature-based solutions offer now — and they don’t typically offer the same kinds of co-benefits.
The bottom line
There’s no question nature-based carbon credits are one of the best ways to fight climate change, and should be a critical part of any company’s pathway to sustainability. If you’re ready to discuss partnering with Aspiration to achieve your net zero goals through high-quality, nature-based solutions, get in touch with our carbon experts.