Ecological Modernisation: implementing Natural Climate Solutions

Attending the WBCSD in Mexico 2017, I sat in on a talk about natural climate solutions (NCS), admittedly not knowing much about it beforehand. This is due to believing technology will be the saviour, as elaborated by Kahn (1979): “An examination of the efforts now being made indicates that one or more technological solutions will become available for pollution, traffic, resource, ecology and similar problems”. The term was completely new to me, however the benefits they discussed were promising: a cost-efficient way to stay committed the Paris agreement, where the biggest limitation is not the present-day technology, but our imagination.

NCS can be defined as the investment in natural infrastructure as a solution to climate change. The difference between natural and grey infrastructure, as illustrated at the WBCSD, is that a “grey” way of managing flood controls would be for instance sea walls, where as a natural infrastructure could for instance be an oyster reef. By implementing natural rather than grey infrastructure, private sectors can experience benefits such as: cost reduction, safer workplaces and addressing stakeholder and community concerns. Furthermore: “Natural climate solutions can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030 for a >66% chance of holding warming to below 2 °C, (Griscom et al, 2017). The benefits for governmental/organisational investing is evident, given the opportunities for cost-reduction, safer workplaces and contribution to upkeeping the Paris agreement. Therefore, I was interested in why NCS is not one of the main priorities to be implemented in the 6th wave of innovation and ecological modernisation. Perhaps the answers to climate change is not in the future of technology, but present in nature?

One of the main challenges of implementing NCS is reflected in my own attitude prior attending the talk, which is unawareness. This is underlined by investment priority towards climate change, where renewable energy and energy efficiency receives investment 10 times that off NCS. Therefore, companies have different perceptions than that of NCS, of what should be the primary solution for sustainability. One must also consider that for certain organisations, investing in NCS could be perceived by the public as greenwashing. Also, one of the main issues raised by a delegate at the talk, was that public policy does not support natural solutions, meaning two drawbacks: why risk investing in NCS, and cultural change must be introduced in order for NCS to be positively perceived. I do however believe with the increase of global extreme weather in recent times, cultural change is indeed plausible. However, implementing cultural change on a societal level is a lengthy process, and in order to stay true to the Paris agreement with NCS, investment must be done today if we wish to stay below 2°C by 2030. Therefore, allowing business-as-usual while implementing cultural change is not option.

Tor-Elesh Albrigtsen

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