Catalyzing Resilience Value through Nature-Based Solutions
Resilience is the ability to weather and emerge from shock events. Resilience intelligence is the complex work of understanding whether we are positioned to do so. Structured, evolving guidance, rooted in Earth-systems science, is a critical tool for achieving operational resilience and shared prosperity.
Human wellbeing is enhanced by healthy natural systems and degraded by their degradation. We are now witnessing, in real time, how climate disruption degrades ecosystems and creates conditions for insecurity and conflict. Per IPBES, natural systems and their vital contributions to people—biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services—are deteriorating worldwide. Building the health and resilience of ecosystems (locally and internationally), which depend on biodiversity, can generate billions of dollars in capital, social, and environmental returns.
Local Context: Polluted environments and degraded ecosystems offer zero to marginal ecosystem value or services. That shortfall undermines value-creation across whole economies. Accounting for ecosystem-related external returns on investment (XROI) makes clear the value of investing in the resilience-building power of healthy ecological systems, maximizing the efficiency of investments and measurably enhancing resilience. When the City of Boston embarked on a court-ordered $4.7 billion cleanup of Boston Harbor in 1986, the project was expected to be cost-ineffective in terms of the value the cleanup would generate. Today, the restored Boston Harbor ecosystem provides ecological benefits to its surrounding community with a capitalized value of $30 billion to $100 billion.
Global Context: Wild pollinators provide one of the most vital and invaluable services to human wellbeing—enabling fertilization of food crops around the world. It is estimated that pollination increases payments to producers of food crops by US$235-577 billion per year and keeps food prices down by ensuring stable supplies. Unsustainable land-use practices (both urban and agricultural) are putting this irreplaceable natural value generation at risk.
Invest in Biodiversity Protection from Summit to Sea
Biodiversity is a vital measure of resilience in natural systems. The food system depends on biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and climate stability. Not only is reduced biodiversity a signal of ecosystem degradation; biodiversity loss creates new risks that exacerbate vulnerabilities for both natural systems and human economies and societies.
- An estimated 20% of global mangroves have been lost since 1980, while coral reefs and seagrass ecosystems are also being rapidly depleted; millions of lives that depend on them for food and shelter are at risk of suffering from hunger and poverty.
- The rapid loss of mangroves also threatens the blue carbon ecosystems that are among the richest and most reliable carbon sinks on the planet—generating further risks from climate disruption.
Roughly 3 billion people live within 100 kilometers of the coast. Coastal communities live at the intersection of watersheds and marine ecosystems. Though much of the ocean remains to be explored, our everyday activities on land are intimately connected to ocean health and resilience. Pollution-free energy, finance, industry, and responsible land-use, make it possible to address several Sustainable Development Goals at once. Climate-smart agriculture can make real and lasting progress on Poverty (SDG1), Hunger, (SDG2), Decent Work (SDG8), and Life on Land (SDG15) and in the Ocean (SDG14).
Leaders, innovators, and everyday practitioners in all sectors need new enabling policy frameworks that specifically identify how upstream actions threaten health and resilience downstream. These new enabling policy frameworks can drive the creation of financial instruments and business models attuned to these areas of upstream-downstream interrelationship, to solve complex but urgent challenges—such as plastic waste, chemical agricultural runoffs, ecosystem degradation and loss of biodiversity across agricultural regions, depletion of carbon sinks, and ocean acidification.
Linking Nature-based solutions to Financial Markets
Interactive risk-tracking, connected to new modes of investment and business-model innovation at both national and community levels, can drive sustainable ocean investment that flows from and feeds into the whole economy.
- If farmland property valuations account for soil carbon richness and ecological resilience, and the higher-value equity is coupled with tax incentives for carbon-rich farming practices, the resulting value differential will make its way to market and scale through the whole economy.
- A new economy follows from such innovations, with new investment, farmland resilience, and better diets, redirecting mainstream finance. In 2014, for instance, ecological restoration accounted for 59% more jobs in the United States than coal mining.
Financing strategies for such upstream-downstream resilience-building efforts can be multidirectional: If downstream communities have an interest in reduced environmental harm from upstream activities, then upstream communities have an interest in motivating investment from downstream actors. Blended finance for biodiversity and ecosystem protection should leverage this shared interest to ensure wider pools of finance move into resilience-building activities.
Large, international, private-sector banks and financial institutions have already started down the path to 100% climate-smart finance. Just nine of these institutions have so far committed to spend $1.25 trillion in climate-smart investments by 2030. Though not yet fully capitalized, the volume of this committed climate finance is already equivalent to 50% of the GDP of countries such as India and UK.
515 major investors, managing more than $35 trillion, have signed onto the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change. Initial climate-smart finance aggregation work for Resilience Intel finds more than $3.5 trillion in already committed financial resources from the public and private sectors and from multilateral development banks—most of this yet to be deployed. Re-imagining all mainstream finance as climate-related finance can help solve the most critical factor limiting NDC ambition in developing countries—lack of access to or availability of finance.
Operationalizing Ecological Integrity
Both the Metz Charter on Biodiversity agreed by the G7 Environment Ministers and the trade diplomacy used by G7 Leaders to emphasize the importance of Amazon rainforest ecosystems show biodiversity is now valued as a driver of economy-shaping natural-system health and resilience.
The benefits of biodiversity do not remain localized. Ecosystem services are made more efficient by stable or expanding biodiversity and provide more reliable support for food security and other benefits to human wellbeing. We are past the point where it is possible to argue that markets can outsmart natural systems. Building science and resilience into operations is the only way to keep up with emerging paradigm-shift innovations and transformational market imperatives.
We invite interested practitioners, innovators, and decision-makers to join a Consortium of technical and strategic partners to design, refine, build out, and operationalize the Resilience Intel system for evolving ecosystem-sensitive climate intelligence.
Read the Resilience Intel Charter at: ResilienceIntel.org/Charter
This report was produced by the Resilience Intel team, with extensive background research by Resilience Intelligence Fellow Shantanu Agrawal.