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Letting nature take the lead to get the world back on track

Release date:
14 September 2020
Conserving and enhancing natural environments is thought to be key to helping the world to net zero emissions. As bp announces a new five-year collaboration with Fauna & Flora International, the conservation charity’s director for extractives and development infrastructure programme, Pippa Howard, explains the benefits for us all of letting nature do what it does best

FFI – who we are

Established in 1903, FFI is one of the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organizations. Like bp, we’ve seen a lot of change in the past century, but our focus has always been on shaping and influencing conservation practices and protecting our planet’s biodiversity. It is our firm belief that that biodiversity underpins the healthy ecosystems we need to support all life. 

How we’re working with bp 

We’ve actually been working with bp on and off for more than two decades, but this agreement takes our relationship even further. We’ll be helping the company to achieve its net positive impact (NPI) aim as outlined in its new biodiversity position.

NPI is important because it means bp wants to do more than just mitigate its environmental impact and, instead, enhance biodiversity in the areas where it operates new projects.

So, we’re going to help in two ways. In the first instance, we’ll share the technical expertise we’ve developed over the past decade to help bp build and pilot a new NPI methodology within its projects.

But we can’t deliver NPI without using mechanisms called nature-based solutions, so the other strand of our work will be to identify ways in which to collaborate on those too. FFI has a lot of experience designing and implementing projects out in the field to conserve biodiversity, capture carbon whilst working with people and local communities to generate sustainable livelihoods.

Nature-based solutions explained

The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines nature-based solutions as: “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits.” 

In truth, this is an umbrella term that can cover everything from reforestation, to habitat restoration, to sustainable urban planning. “Natural climate solutions” are a subset of Nature Based Solutions that can help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 

It’s about more than just planting trees, though

Our forests are our planet’s lungs. They suck in carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen, making them an important carbon storage system. So, reforestation can be a vital natural climate solution, but only if done well and sympathetically to the surrounding ecosystem. There’s no point planting Alpine trees in the African savanna, for example. 

It’s also about protecting and restoring our existing forests,  not just about planting new ones. Avoiding deforestation is one of the most effective ways to capture and store  carbon on land – and comes with the positive co-benefits to conserve global biodiversity and support sustainable livelihoods.

But trees aren’t our only carbon sink. Everything from our soil to grasslands to oceans have the capacity to lock away carbon. And some punch well above their weight. 

For example, peatlands cover just 3% of our planet’s surface and yet are deep enough to be our largest natural terrestrial carbon storage system. As a consequence, the damage we inflict on them contributes to around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from land use. 

And it’s not just about carbon dioxide 

We rely on nature for our food and water supplies. Many livelihoods depend on it, too. And yet, our climate is changing dramatically. So, adopting wider nature-based solutions offers a more holistic way to address some of the big societal and environmental issues that we face.

Take mangroves, for example, they provide natural coastal defences that can help to prevent saltwater flooding and damaging crop land. Wetlands, meanwhile, are natural water treatment and storage systems. They also both happen to be invaluable habitats for wildlife. 

Think of these solutions as green engineering – instead of concrete, pipelines and pumps, it’s about letting nature do what nature does best.  

Why now?

Net zero simply isn’t possible without natural climate solutions. In fact, a 2017 study suggests that natural climate solutions have the potential to deliver more than one-third of the CO2e reduction that is needed between now and 2030 in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The climate and biodiversity agendas have changed dramatically in the past few years. The IPCC 1.5 degree C report in 2018 and last year’s IPEBS Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services were a big wake-up call. 

Organizations like FFI have been working to get nature-based solutions on the agenda for decades and we’re pleased to see that governments and businesses are starting to see the material implications and realize that we simply cannot continue with business as usual. 


We believe working with bp, we can help the company lead the way in its sector to demonstrate that by working together and with nature, we can collectively protect, restore and create resilient ecosystems for the benefit of people and the planet. 

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