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The G7 and COP27's Nature-Based Solutions
Samraggi Hazra, Natasha Vosky, Alexander Laurens Bremer and Emma Wymant, G7 Research Group
February 8, 2023
On 16 November 2022, the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with the participation of G7 members, launched the Enhancing Nature Based Solutions for Climate Transformation (ENACT) initiative to address climate and biodiversity issues. The initiative comprises eight foci: food security and land productivity, adaptation and disaster risk reduction, oceans and sustainable blue economy, urban resilience, green-grey infrastructure, nature-based solutions in national and subnational mitigation strategies, mobilizing private investment in nature-based solutions, and health, climate and nature-based solutions. The binding aspect of these foci is the theme of actions that protect natural ecosystems that benefit people while dealing with climate change and biodiversity. To understand the G7's role in the coming years to fully realize the goals of the ENACT initiative, it would be useful to explore past G7 governance of these issue areas.
As climate change continues, the intersection between climate and food security increasingly affects those most vulnerable. The UN's ENACT initiative recommends that countries incorporated nature-based solutions into agricultural landscapes in order to instrumentalize such landscapes to promote food security, water security, soil health and improved crop production.
The 2015 G7 Elmau Summit first committed to lifting 500 million people out of malnutrition by 2030, which was reaffirmed at the 2022 Elmau Summit. Although all G7 members acted on this commitment, in the first year after it was made, from June 2015 to May 2016, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union were the only ones to reach full compliance. The average compliance with this commitment was 82 per cent. Despite the G7 addressing this issue, the comments provided at COP27 indicate more substantive action is necessary. COP27 president H.E. Sameh Shoukry noted that "the rapid destruction of ecosystems is increasing our vulnerability to the impact of climate change." To prevent such a rapid scale of environmental destruction and its effects on human lives, urgent and ambitious actions are necessary. At the Cornwall Summit in 2021, the G7 made a commitment regarding agriculture, forestry and land use, involving food security and sustainable development in conjunction with the creation of carbon sinks. This commitment was met with 88 per cent compliance, indicating a willingness to take action on such issues. With the clear goals defined by ENACT, it is possible that G7 members will now be able to take more conclusive actions on food security and agriculture.
The ENACT initiative recommends that nature-based solutions be incorporated into actions to increase resilience and decrease vulnerability of both people and the environment against problems posed by climate change and natural disasters. This includes, for example, restoring mangroves to combat rising sea levels, storm surges, and the erosion of shorelines.
The G7 has pledged to address adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Nevertheless, this awareness and recognition is insufficient if the G7 does not take direct and necessary action that utilizes nature-based solutions to advance environmental resilience and reduce vulnerability. As the ENACT initiative outlined means of implementation regarding biodiversity-climate action, G7 members should consider their own recommendations for commitments at future summits. Overall G7 compliance with commitments on disaster risk reduction and adaptation between 1985 and 2019 was 84 per cent.* At a meeting in May 2022, G7 environment ministers committed to increasing the implementation of nature-based solutions to combat the loss of biodiversity, climate change and pollution, which they predicted would improve adaptation and disaster risk reduction. This indicates that commitments similar to the goals issued by ENACT are under G7 consideration, and implies a sense of responsibility in achieving such goals.
The theme of protecting oceans and marine life, specifically coral reefs, received additional attention during COP27. ENACT aims to incorporate nature-based solutions in marine and coastal systems; these include blue carbon, building coastal resilience, and minimizing loss and damage in coastal systems.
The G7 first referenced the protection of oceans in its 1985 Bonn Summit, and marine protection has generally continued to be an area of interest. In particular, the G7 launched the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative and the Sustainable Blue Economy Principles in 2016 and the G7 Ocean Deal in 2022. At the 2021 Cornwall Summit, G7 members committed to "accelerate action to tackle the increasing levels of plastic pollution in the ocean from all sources," compliance with which was 100 per cent. Overall compliance with similar commitments ranges at an average of 86 per cent. These actions provide a positive indication for future G7 compliance with ENACT's goals.
The ENACT initiative aims to increase the sustainability of urban development and the liveability of cities by solving environmental and climate problems. This includes the regulation of temperatures, filtration of water, adaptation to rising sea levels and cleaning air.
In 2000, the G8 environment ministers emphasized the need for urban sustainable development, but the G7 did not address urban resilience directly until 2021, when it created the Urban 7 engagement group. In 2022 it held the first G7 Ministerial Meeting for Urban Development. The G7 must now continue to increase funding and resource allocation for urban spaces to prevent urban sprawling in accordance with this focus area. Overall G7 compliance with similar actions to the ones outlined by ENACT is 70 per cent.* Most recently, at the 2021 Cornwall Summit G7 members committed to accelerate transitions away from fossil fuel–powered vehicles to zero emission vehicles, and complied with this commitment at 88 per cent. G7 members have thus begun their green transition to promote sustainable urban resilience in the face of environmental changes, denoting a positive implication for its future actions related to ENACT's goals.
Green-grey infrastructure integrates nature-based solutions into engineering to promote collaboration with the engineering and construction industries and establish public and private investment, including in projects such as renewable energy. ENACT aims to integrate nature-based solutions into sustainable infrastructure development by combining nature-based and grey engineering in order to increase public and private investment through planned infrastructure investments, including in the area of renewable energy.
G7 members committed to investing in clean energy at the 2022 Elmau Summit. Similarly, at the 2021 Cornwall Summit, the G7 called on major economies to increase investment in the technology and infrastructure required for a green transition. At the same summit, G7 members committed to develop a new partnership to change their approach to investment for infrastructure, including through an initiative for clean and green growth, which was met with 100 per cent compliance. The G7 has actively promoted green infrastructure in recent years and it is an area of strong promise for future commitments.
COP27 also called for the adoption of nature-based solutions in national and local efforts toward conserving, restoring and preventing the loss of natural ecosystems. The ENACT initiative called for nature-based solutions to be used to prevent degradation and loss of natural ecosystems, as well as conserving and restoring ecosystems to be used as natural carbon sinks.
At the 2021 Cornwall Summit, G7 members pledged that their national policies would take a sustainable approach towards protecting ecosystems. This commitment received 88 per cent compliance. A similar approach was echoed in 2022, as leaders committed to increasing restoration initiatives both nationally and regionally, as well as increasing implementing nature-based solutions. At the 2019 Biarritz Summit, the G7 acknowledged the need to preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems, including through nature-based solutions and circular economy, which received 88 per cent compliance.* Given the G7's recent actions, there is a generally good indication that it will continue to take steps to fulfill ENACT's goals.
The ENACT initiative aims to use nature-based solutions to promote private investment, as well as encourage corporations, philanthropists and blended finance providers to generate revenue through ecosystem services, carbon and biodiversity credits.
The 1991 London Summit was the first time G7 leaders explicitly agreed to mobilise financial resources from the private sector to protect nature, in the context of conserving the Brazilian tropical forest. At the 2022 Elmau Summit, they committed to mobilize both private and public resources to finance nature-based solutions. Overall, G7 compliance on commitments promoting private-sector investment and corporate social responsibility in relation to nature and the environment has ranged at 73 per cent.* Although the G7 has had relative success mobilizing finance from the private sector, it remains to be seen how such success stands when integrated with nature-based solutions.
The eighth pillar of the ENACT initiative involves implementing health, climate, and nature-based solutions to effectively protect 1 billion vulnerable people. This includes both communicable and noncommunicable diseases related to ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change.
The 1979 Tokyo Summit was the first time the G7 recognized the link between health and climate change solutions. At the 2022 Elmau Summit, the G7 acknowledged the relationship between the health sector and climate adaptation, committing to making their health systems sustainable and climate-neutral by 2050, as well as committing to make such systems resilient to the impacts of environmental changes. Focusing on this pillar in future environmental commitments will allow G7 members to increase their existing efforts to synergize health, climate and nature-based solutions.
Going forward, the G7 will play a key role in implementing the ENACT initiative. Past compliance indicates that the G7 has already taken strides to realize commitments similar to the goals outlined by ENACT. This includes 100 per cent compliance in areas such as marine pollution and investments in green infrastructure. However, there continue to be gaps in actions. The G7 has, on average, reached 70 per cent compliance in adapting urban areas to the challenges of climate change over the years. Incorporating private investment and environmental issues has also only seen 73 per cent compliance on average. These are all vital aspects of the ENACT initiative, which the G7 members expressed their full commitment to at COP27. Similar areas of concern were also raised at the 15th Conference to the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in 2022, indicating both the importance of these issues as well as the interest of G7 members and the rest of the world to see them solved. As such, G7 members must take a role of greater responsibility in seeing the ENACT initiative fully implemented. The coming ministerial meetings, as well as the 2023 Hiroshima Summit, must see members reaffirm their commitment explicitly to ENACT, as well as outline increasingly ambitious and effective commitments to bring about its goals.
* Cumulative compliance data are available from the G7 Research Group at email@example.com.
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