19 May 2023

UK Earth Overshoot Day: Why reversing the biodiversity crisis is essential to tackling climate risk

Iggy Bassi

By Iggy Bassi

UK Earth Overshoot Day: Why reversing the biodiversity crisis is essential to tackling climate risk

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demands on natural resources outpaces what the Earth is able to regenerate within a year. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 28. We’re living well beyond our means, dipping into the Earth’s reserves to meet rising consumption demands of a growing global population. This year, Earth Overshoot Day is predicted to be even earlier.

Globally, consumption patterns are not uniform though. Today [May 19th 2023] marks the UK’s overshoot day, which means that if everyone in the world consumed the same resources as an average UK citizen, the world’s nature budget for the year would already be spent less than six months into the year. This deep exploitation of nature has fatal consequences for life on this planet, and the impacts are already here in the forms of climate change, biodiversity loss, and food and water insecurity.

Realizing truly sustainable development depends on how we conserve, steward, and restore Earth’s nature. With Earth Overshoot Day arriving earlier every year, what are the prospects for reversing this trend and centering climate and development strategies around nature?

The real value of Earth’s natural resources

The climate and nature crises are inextricably linked. The recent IPCC Report stated climate impacts on people and nature are widespread and severe, having already caused damages and irreversible losses in the world’s ecosystems, including local species losses and mass mortality events. But there is more recognition than ever of nature’s role in supporting human health and well-being, such as providing food and water, regulating environmental conditions through air purification, carbon sequestration and resilience to natural disasters, and supporting recreation and cultural or spiritual practices. These services are worth an estimated USD125 trillion annually, and more than half of the world’s GDP is moderately to highly dependent on them.

Protection and restoration of the natural environment is an essential part of tackling climate risk and we are seeing policy changes to reflect this. Last year, 188 countries came together to sign the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, dubbed the Paris Agreement for biodiversity covering everything from conservation and restoration, use of pesticides, pollution, plastics, management of invasive species, the role of subsidies in supporting activities that harm nature, and more. Most prominent among the Framework’s targets is a global goal to protect 30% of lands and oceans by 2030, and almost every country in the world is on the hook to do its part in short order.

This is particularly poignant today, given that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and is on track to miss nearly every single nature target set for 2030. Within the risk posed by the biodiversity crash, this framework offers a significant and unique opportunity for every participant country to conserve, steward and restore land that not only protects essential natural resources but can integrate them into a larger climate solution at the same time.

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Holistic solutions for a systemic problem

Biodiversity loss, like climate change, is a systemic problem and we will not succeed in the solutions without a holistic approach, which factors in climate, people, assets, and nature. This is a world where reforestation projects are located in regions of high habitat value that can also decrease drought and other associated physical risks by transporting moisture inland. Where the green energy sector is resilient to volatile weather patterns and can provide reliable and durable supply to decrease transition risk. Where nations, NGO’s, enterprises and communities alike can attract nature-linked finance to support competitive global markets to local job security.

Only by considering physical, transition and nature risk comprehensively can we minimize the current and future impacts of climate change, but also maximize on the opportunities. Reversing our nature-debt and restoring our environment will allow us to not only address the annual creep in our overshoot timeline and resource demand, but create allyship with our natural world. We need nature to help combat the devastating impacts of climate change and we must enable this by placing value on the services it provides that go well beyond carbon offsetting.

Cervest’s Unified Climate Intelligence™ (UCI) platform has the power to enable stakeholders to develop more effective and resilient strategies to understand and manage their climate-related risk by accounting for the complex interactions between physical, transition, and nature risks. This includes projecting risk to the stocks and services of natural capital assets. UCI enables groundbreaking action on the interconnected challenges of adaptation, mitigation, and managing nature—at all levels of decision-making. Only by climate-aligning decisions across built and natural assets can organizations promote resilience, and foster sustainable growth.

To stay up-to-date with the latest developments in Cervest’s UCI platform, and for more insights into climate risk, subscribe to our newsletter.

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