Natural capital — connecting people to nature

Publication date

Today is World Environment Day. This year the UN encourages us ‘to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it’.

The word ‘depend’ demonstrates the simple truth that we cannot live without natural capital — the goods, services and benefits we gain from nature. For example, the main focus of our work, tropical forests, reducelandslidescarbon emissions and regional vulnerability to climate change. As well as their importance for medicine and sustainable development, protecting and regenerating rainforests could give us 50% of the carbon mitigation we need to stay below a 2°C increase in global temperatures, the target of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

Despite this, however, our economies routinely fail to accurately value natural capital and its importance to us, leading to what we call the ‘deforestation economy’. Approximately half of the products in supermarkets cause deforestation indirectly, and even our loans and our pensions are implicated, through investments in destructive companies. This is why GCP works to build understanding of the vital role that natural capital plays.

Through the Natural Capital Finance Alliance, a joint initiative we manage with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, we are developing an open-source ‘toolbox’ to help financial institutions understand and act on their dependencies on natural capital.

Our Forest 500 project identifies, ranks and holds accountable the companies, financial institutions and places with the greatest ability to influence deforestation. Trase, which we manage with the Stockholm Environment Institute, brings unprecedented transparency to agricultural supply chains.

In Latin America we are working with leading regional governments tochannel investment towards more sustainable agriculture, lifting farmers out of poverty, reducing carbon emissions and protecting biodiversity. We are also helping to build resilience into water, energy and food supplies in the face of climate change in the Cumbaza watershed.

At the core of all our work is the fundamental importance of forests and natural capital for us all. Ultimately, we are all fundamentally and inextricably connected to nature, everywhere and in everything we do. To ensure a safe, secure and sustainable world for all, we must start with natural capital, and with the forest.