Harnessing natures innate power to address the climate crisis

Earth Day special – Harnessing nature’s innate power to address the climate crisis

By Ho Ning Li

In 2019, the United Nations Environment Programme released a New Deal for Nature, calling for “transformations to recalibrate humanity’s relationship with nature, and harness nature-based solutions for climate change” [1].


Nature-based solutions can provide up to 37% of the cost-effective carbon dioxide mitigation needed through 2030 to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels [2]. Nature-based solutions include green and blue infrastructure initiatives such as forest and wetland restoration, climate-smart agriculture and urban greening. These initiatives accelerate the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that plants and soils sequester, hence mitigating the warming effect in the atmosphere.


Adaptation to climate change impacts is also a key benefit of nature-based solutions. Besides being effective carbon sinks, healthy ecosystems can significantly reduce the impact of climate-related natural disasters such as floods, storms and droughts [3]. For example, mangroves and coral reefs can protect coastal communities from rising tides and storm surges. In Singapore, the government plans to employ mangrove restoration in addition to building polders and dykes to tackle rising sea levels [4].


According to the United Nations (UN), coral reefs are expected to reduce damages from storms by more than US$4 billion annually [3]. Natural ecosystem’s ability to regenerate also means reduced maintenance costs compared to man-made structures such as sea walls.


The value of nature is increasingly recognised, not just for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but also due to our dependence on ecosystem services. The collapse of natural ecosystems and biodiversity loss will devastate economies and livelihoods and threaten the survival of mankind. In the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, “biodiversity loss” was ranked by leaders in business, government and civil society as one of the top five threats to humanity in the next 10 years [5].


The UN, in its New Deal for Nature, has called for a global commitment to implement natural capital accounting in Systems of National Accounts by 2030. In March 2021, a landmark framework was adopted by the UN to integrate natural capital, such as forests, wetlands and other ecosystems, in economic reporting [6]. The framework — the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) marks a major step towards addressing the inadequacies of the traditional gross domestic product (GDP) for economic reporting.


For businesses, natural capital reporting and disclosure of nature-related risks and opportunities will be increasingly expected. A Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), similar to the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework, is in the works and will be finalised in 2023 [7].

Nature is an intangible capital to be harnessed, but more importantly, to be protected.



[1] A new deal for Nature – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

[2] We are at a critical point for the future of the planet – The Nature Conservancy

[3] On Earth Day, harnessing the power of nature to heal herself – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

[4] Explainer: Why we need to use nature in the fight against climate change – Today

[5] New Nature Economy Report Series – World Economic Forum

[6] UN adopts landmark framework to integrate natural capital in economic reporting – United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

[7] Why a Taskforce is needed – Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures

Image credits: Photo by Timothy K on Unsplash


Reopening economies – key risks and opportunities

By Nicole Lim

Today marks the last day of the “circuit breaker” in Singapore. Come tomorrow (2 June), Singapore will enter the first phase of the three parts to reopening the Singapore economy. Singapore is not alone, many countries and economies are already reopening while navigating through some semblance of a pre-COVID way of life – the new normal. How these upcoming weeks and months unfold will be critical for the fight against COVID-19, but also for setting our path towards a more sustainable future. How will we build back better?

Possible risks

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released two new reports which highlights key risks, challenges and opportunities the world is facing as a result of COVID-19. Based on inputs from 350 of the world’s top risk professionals, the COVID-19 Risks Outlook Report identifies the following most likely fallouts for the world, with economic risks topping the charts. This is no surprise, seeing as how the pandemic has halted much economic activity and saw governments pushing out trillions of dollars for recovery packages. Against this backdrop, these risks create far-reaching implications on ESG issues, as outlined in the report. Without going into too much detail, the environmental front will face risks from potential setbacks and stalling of progress for climate and environmental action. Countries run the risk of returning or developing emissions-intensive ways of operating as they look to reboot their economy post-pandemic. On the social front, WEF and many other thought leaders have identified rising inequality, negative effects on mental health, and long-lasting repercussions on youths, as some key societal risks. Cybersecurity and the inequality rising from the (forced) acceleration of widespread digital adoption has also been identified as a key risk. Underscoring all these risks is the need for strong, effective, and visionary governance practices to build back better. The report also outlines some key questions for decision-makers to consider.

An opportunity to build back better

Despite it sounding all doom and gloom, WEF also articulates that these risks are not forecasts – that decisive and bold action can set a path to a global sustainable recovery. Here’s a direct quote from the same report:

“As economies restart, there is an opportunity to embed greater societal equality and sustainability into the recovery, accelerating rather than delaying progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and unleashing a new era of prosperity.”

The European Union’s proposal for a recovery plan which places emphasis on a green transition is one such example. The plan emphasises investing for the next generation, has significant funds directed at circular models and renewable energy, as well as proposals for adapting to new levels of digitalisation.

Beyond public sector responses, the report also notes that the global private sector will play a pivotal role in shaping a post-COVID future.

“As businesses seek to restructure supply chains, redesign manufacturing systems and respond to changing consumer demands, global sustainability could be shaped for years to come by the decisions taken today.”

In Singapore, we are seeing signs of such a green recovery from the private sector. Just last week, it was announced that CapitaLand secured a four-year S$500m sustainability-linked loan form UOB. This comes with Group CEO Lee Chee Koon highlighting that,

“The pandemic has raised global awareness of the importance of ESG (criteria), as major disruptions to businesses can come from anywhere… We are reviewing CapitaLand’s sustainability strategy… which will allow (us) to better future-proof our company.”

Also last week, the National University of Singapore (NUS) raised S$300 million through its inaugural green bond. Being the first of its kind among Asian universities, the bond will go towards financing green projects, which will be evaluated against NUS’ new Green Finance Framework. The university will be working alongside two major Singaporean banks, DBS and OCBC, on this commitment. Innovations and partnerships such as these would be pivotal in a post-pandemic recovery.

Be it in the public or private sector, one thing is certain – this pandemic has given the world the tools to manage a global risk. From newfound working practices, to altered ways of commuting and consuming, and to galvanising a global cohesive response to a crisis – emerging from this pandemic, we will have the opportunity to build back better.