By protecting, better managing, and restoring nature, Canada can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, concludes Nature United’s ground-breaking Natural Climate Solutions for Canada. The new study published in Science Advances shows that Natural Climate Solutions can help Canada mitigate up to 78 Mt CO2e annually in 2030—an amount equal to the current greenhouse gas emissions from powering every single home in Canada for about three years.
Building on global and American studies, Nature United collaborated with 16 institutions and 38 leading experts from academia, governments, and non-governmental organizations in Canada and the United States to analyze Canada-specific pathways to implement Natural Climate Solutions. Top examples include protecting more natural areas to capture and store greenhouse gases, improved farming practices such as planting cover crops and nutrient management, and planting trees.
“Right now, Canada’s vast natural landscapes can play a powerful role in helping to tackle our climate and biodiversity crises,” says Hadley Archer, Executive Director of Nature United.
The study examines four land types (agricultural lands, forests, wetlands, grasslands) and 24 pathways that, undertaken in the next decade, have the potential to cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to 11% of Canada’s current annual emissions. The study shows we can protect ecosystems (38% of total potential in 2030) such as grasslands, peatlands, and forests—preserving them in a healthy state instead of converting them to other intensive uses and avoiding the release of greenhouse gases. We can improve the way we manage nature (57% of total potential in 2030) like improving the way forests are managed or expanding cover crops to keep soil healthy and reduce emissions. And we can restore nature (5% of total potential in 2030) to increase carbon capture by planting trees in cities, replanting formerly forested land or bringing back natural flows to wetlands and coasts.
The study includes additional long-term forecasting to provide an important look at short-term actions that can deliver significant long-term benefits. For example, immediate actions to restore forests by planting trees can deliver significant long-term mitigation. By 2050, these forests will store large amounts of carbon and the planted trees will be growing fast enough to offer substantial mitigation potential.
“When developed and implemented by governments, Indigenous and local communities and industry, Natural Climate Solutions deliver incredible social, environmental and economic benefits,” says Tyson Atleo, Natural Climate Solutions Program Director at Nature United. “Through meaningful collaboration, we can spur strong government action to introduce new policy incentives, uphold and invest in Indigenous rights and knowledge, and build economic solutions for industry—which will result in climate progress, healthier communities, and thriving ecosystems.”
Natural Climate Solutions are vital for meeting Canada’s 2030 targets and reaching net-zero by 2050. Combined with innovations in clean energy and other efforts to decarbonize the world’s economies, Natural Climate Solutions offer some of the best options in the response to climate change. They also present an immediate opportunity to rebuild a Canada where people and nature are united, and where ecosystems and economies thrive. The study highlights actions that are cost effective—with many of the pathways available at less than $50 per tonne of CO2e—and that are available now. Protection, management, and restoration pathways will create new jobs and provide alternative revenue streams to Indigenous communities, farmers, ranchers, and foresters to help stimulate our economy.
“Decision-makers in Canada must invest in Natural Climate Solutions now. Protecting, managing, and restoring nature is a critical part of an integrated strategy to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” says Amanda Reed, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Nature United. “As part of Canada’s commitment to economic recovery and a more sustainable future, this study provides the data needed for governments, industry, and community leaders to act. Canada needs to fund and implement Natural Climate Solutions through market transformation, policy incentives, regulation, and most importantly, changes in the way we protect, manage and restore lands and waters.”
The results of the study will help decision-makers at all levels and across all sectors understand where the greatest greenhouse gas mitigation potential exists through Natural Climate Solutions to inform Canada’s fight to tackle the climate crisis. The study also identifies the most powerful and cost-effective investments in Natural Climate Solutions over the next 10 years, providing clear guidance for the $4.1-billion investment committed by the federal government—including where and how the 2-billion tree-planting program will have maximum climate benefit.
Nature United was founded as a Canadian charity in 2014, building on decades of conservation in Canada. Headquartered in Toronto, our organization has field staff located across the country. Nature United supports Indigenous leadership, sustainable economic development and science and large-scale conservation, primarily in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba. Our organization is also working to accelerate Natural Climate Solutions at national and regional scales. To learn more, visit natureunited.ca or follow @natureunited_ca.
We are the Canadian affiliate of The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization with more than a million members and a diverse team that includes more than 400 scientists. Our global organization works in 79 countries — either directly or through partnerships — to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press.