Climate and Nature Action Are Inseparable and Face the Same Urgent Timeline
By Divya Mankikar, Global Head of Sustainability Market Engagement, S&P Global Sustainable1
S&P Global Sustainable1, the central source for sustainability intelligence from S&P Global is joining as Principal Partner for this year’s World Biodiversity Summit in New York. Divya Mankikar, Global Head of Sustainability Market Engagement at S&P Global Sustainable1, will bring forth her contributions as a speaker during the Fireside Chat session about the power of collaboration.
“We are delighted to be Principal Partner of World Biodiversity Summit, organised by World Climate Foundation”
- Divya Mankikar, Global Head of Sustainability Market Engagement
In this article, Divya Mankikar shares her insights and leadership expertise as to why climate and nature action are inseparable.
Over the past couple of years, I have spoken with more than 100 corporate stakeholders — both investors and nonfinancial companies — about nature and biodiversity, particularly in the Americas and Asia. Much of these discussions centered on the questions: What do we need to pay attention to from the private sector perspective? How do we make progress on this issue amid so many other priorities? There can be a kind of nervousness around bringing a new set of concepts related to nature and biodiversity to the table. Some senior managers have commented that they only just started making headway on aligning climate strategy among the board, management, suppliers and other stakeholders so they are looking for help in expanding that work to include nature.
But the fact of the matter is, more investors, companies and other stakeholders are recognising that these nature-related concepts, from biodiversity to natural capital to ecosystem dependencies, are inseparable from a robust climate strategy. Research from S&P Global Sustainable1 found that 85% of the S&P Global 1200 constituents — the world’s largest companies — have a significant dependency on nature across their direct operations. And not only are most large companies dependent on nature but there is an urgency to address that dependence by measuring it and protecting the natural resources companies and communities rely on.
2030 is Key
For action on both climate and nature, 2030 is critical: It is a key waypoint on the road to hitting net-zero by mid-century, and it is also the explicit deadline for a recently signed global biodiversity commitment. It is hard to understate the importance to the global economy of making significant progress every year going forward and hitting the 2030 goals.
The central goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels, and ideally to 1.5 degrees C. To achieve that 1.5-degree goal, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030. This target was informed by the scientific research carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The nature corollary to the Paris Agreement, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework signed in 2022, also takes 2030 as an anchor. Among its 23 targets that mention 2030 are:
Bringing the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity, close to zero by 2030.
Conserving at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, by 2030.
Many Issues Are Key to Both Climate and Nature/Biodiversity Frameworks
The companies that are addressing nature have done so by evolving their thinking to see nature and biodiversity as an umbrella term that encompasses climate change but also goes further. This has entailed expanding a sometimes-narrow definition of climate tech, or technologies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to include nature and biodiversity. Nature-based climate solutions can contribute up to 30% of the emissions mitigation needed to meet the Paris Agreement target, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and they can provide resilience for physical climate impacts such as flooding and extreme heat.
Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, such as wetlands, mangrove forests and seagrass beds, can also address a range of other environmental issues, such as mitigating pollution and treating water.
- Divya Mankikar, Global Head of Sustainability Market Engagement
Nature is more than climate. “Climate” is often used as a shorthand for climate change-related transition and physical risks and opportunities, whereas nature is a much broader concept that consists of four realms: land, ocean, freshwater and atmosphere, according to the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD). Climate change affects each of these realms, but expanding the focus to nature and biodiversity includes topics such as pollution other than greenhouse gases or whether supply chains may be sourcing materials from priority ecosystems. Companies are increasingly looking for climate solutions that also reduce nature and biodiversity loss.
The TNFD offers a starting place for those who are wondering how to get started. It builds on the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), making it easier to consider nature and climate topics side-by-side and to report in line with the TNFD, particularly for those who have already done a TCFD report.
Getting to those important 2030 targets requires that companies, governments and stakeholders have a common language around the impacts and dependencies on nature and biodiversity. The TNFD’s core metrics are a promising solution.
Wherever possible, the TNFD is “harnessing synergies in framework design and stakeholder engagement to avoid repetition and maximize the prospects of achieving integrated climate-nature disclosures.” When we compare the most recent version of the two frameworks, much of the TCFD’s framing has been left intact.
Corporate Reporting on Nature and Biodiversity Is Sparse but Picking Up Steam
Despite this convergence of climate and nature, and their shared timeline of major change by 2030 to meet global goals, disclosures around nature risks and opportunities are massively under-reported, and commitments among the largest global companies related to addressing nature and biodiversity remain limited.
According to S&P Global Sustainable1 research, the most frequent commitment related to nature and biodiversity by companies is in response to the topic of deforestation. However, even for this most popular of nature topics, just 13% of S&P 500 companies have a deforestation-related commitment. Looking more broadly at a universe of 3,753 global companies assessed in the 2022 S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment, no industry has more than half of the companies with a biodiversity or nature-related commitment of any kind. Across industries, the high-water mark is just 35% of companies that addressed nature or biodiversity, with electric utilities and food products companies leading the pack.
Related to the Global Biodiversity Framework’s “30 by 30” target — or conserving 30% of the world’s ecosystems by 2030 — S&P Global Sustainable1 research found that about 46% of the world’s largest companies have at least one asset in a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). This finding was made possible by overlaying our data sets of corporate physical assets onto protected areas and KBAs, information that is largely undisclosed by companies. The scale of activity occurring within KBA points to a significant challenge in meeting the 2030 goals.
However, change may be on the horizon. At the regional level, there are dozens of examples of jurisdictions where regulators or the private sector are engaging with biodiversity risks. In Brazil, banks are committing to engage meat packing plants to trace and monitor deforestation related to cattle, including their direct and indirect suppliers. Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is a cause of severe loss to biodiversity and also worsens global warming by destroying one of the world’s largest natural carbon sinks.
In Malaysia, the country’s central bank undertook research with the World Bank Group that found that “in parallel to climate-related risks, nature-related risks can lead to economic and financial losses” and “based on loans to economic sectors, Malaysian banks are exposed to a broad range of nature-related physical and transition risks.”
Malaysia and Brazil are two of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, which are nations that harbor a significant portion of the Earth’s species — including a high number of species that are endemic, or not found elsewhere.
And at the global level, in July, the Financial Stability Board asked the IFRS Foundation to take over monitoring of TCFD reporting — seen as a sign of success for the TCFD effort because its new home is the top global body for financial reporting. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) published its first two standards on general sustainability reporting and climate reporting specifically, and now it is looking ahead to determine what topics to cover next. This summer the ISSB issued a consultation requesting feedback on future priorities, including biodiversity — one of three topics the ISSB has specifically asked for comment on.
With much-needed progress being made to elevate nature to the same level as climate, the September 2023 launch of the TNFD’s framework could not come at a better time.
Nature risk is material. And measurable. Learn more at www.spglobal.com/nature
About S&P Global Sustainable1
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About the author
Divya Mankikar is responsible for building S&P Global Sustainable1’s program for engaging with key market influencers, multilaterals and standard-setters. She has over 15 years of experience as an investor, including as Head of Sustainable Investment and Climate Strategy at CalPERS, and a track record of helping companies develop net-zero and nature-positive strategies.