Capitalism is desperate for no-cost solutions to climate change and it is a bonus if it also makes money for investors. Businesses, therefore, advertise their net-zero credentials. sounds great, eh? It is all very simple. Nature holds the solutions to the various environmental crises by creating Protected Areas and increasing carbon sequestration within them (that is, planting trees or restoring forests). A magical solution that does not rely on significant changes by large economies and their major industries, that doesn't involve burning less fossil fuel and changing our consumption patterns.
The claim is that a third of global climate mitigation can be achieved through Nature-based solutions (NbS).
It is the usual market-based approach, a re-labelling of what used to be called carbon offsets. "Nature" is considered a capital or an asset, something to put a price on and trade on the stock exchange and financial markets.
For example, Shell (one of the big supporters of NbS) is releasing X amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. In order to claim that it's respecting its climate commitments, Shell can carry on releasing exactly the same amount of CO2, as long as it also supports the creation of a Protected Area that stocks the same amount of CO2, or plants some trees that are supposed to absorb the same amount of CO2. This exchange, of course, is carried out in the financial markets, through the creation of carbon credits. And this is what governments mean by "net zero": they don't really intend to reduce their emissions to zero, they will simply claim to "offset" those emissions somewhere else. Transforming nature into a form of capital (in this case, as carbon ), that can then be sold in the market.
The conservation industry pushes NbS because they can make huge sums selling carbon credits from the Protected Areas they manage in order to fund new Protected Areas (and pay the million-dollar plus salaries of their CEOs).
The most effective known way of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is by planting trees. Indeed, according to the 2017 estimates, afforestation accounts for nearly half of the potential for climate mitigation through NbS. But achieving this potential would require planting trees over an estimated area of nearly 700 million hectares, almost the size of Australia. Where is that land going to be found? Certainly not in France or the United Kingdom (among the supporters of NbS). The clear risk is that many indigenous peoples and local communities, among those least responsible for the climate crisis, lose their lands.
The creation of so-called Protected Areas, such as the EU Commission new biodiversity initiative called NaturAfrica, treats conservation areas as a massive carbon sink, that can "provide interesting opportunities to generate revenue streams for communities through carbon credits".
Several human rights organizations and independent investigations have shown for years how the creation of Protected Areas, especially in Africa and Asia, are done without the consent of Indigenous or local communities, who lose total access to their ancestral lands, and are accompanied by an increased militarization and violence. Protected Areas destroy the best guardians of the natural world, indigenous peoples, in whose lands are found 80% of biodiversity.
So in the end, Indigenous peoples, small farmers, local communities, fisher-folks, will lose their lands for a climate crisis they didn't cause. A small price worth paying for if it saves the planet?