A natural solution to the climate disaster

Trees planted on upland moor to improve wildlife habitat in Cumbria, UK.

Trees have been planted on upland moor to improve wildlife habitat in Cumbria, UK. Photograph: Wayne Hutchinson/Alamy

The world faces two existential crises, developing with terrifying speed: climate breakdown and ecological breakdown. Neither is being addressed with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from spiralling into collapse. We are writing to champion a thrilling but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the living world: natural climate solutions. This means drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems.

By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems, large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored. At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help minimise a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster. Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same. This potential has so far been largely overlooked.

We call on governments to support natural climate solutions with an urgent programme of research, funding and political commitment. It is essential that they work with the guidance and free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people and other local communities.

This approach should not be used as a substitute for the rapid and comprehensive decarbonisation of industrial economies. A committed and well-funded programme to address all the causes of climate chaos, including natural climate solutions, could help us hold the heating of the planet below 1.5C. We ask that they are deployed with the urgency these crises demand.

Greta Thunberg Activist
Margaret Atwood Author
Michael Mann Distinguished professor of atmospheric science
Naomi Klein Author and campaigner
Mohamed Nasheed Former president, the Maldives
Rowan Williams former Archbishop of Canterbury
Dia Mirza Actor and UN environment goodwill ambassador
Brian Eno Musician and artist
Philip Pullman Author
Bill McKibben Author and campaigner
Simon Lewis Professor of global change science
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Presenter and author
Charlotte Wheeler Forest restoration scientist
David Suzuki Scientist and author
Anohni Musician and artist
Asha de Vos Marine biologist
Yeb Saño Activist
Bittu Sahgal Founder, Sanctuary Nature Foundation
John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace UK
Craig Bennett CEO, Friends of the Earth
Ruth Davis Deputy director of global programmes, RSPB
Rebecca Wrigley Chief executive, Rewilding Britain
George Monbiot Journalist

At this critical time…

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