Let’s talk about valuing natural capital
A conference focusing on new ideas for a sustainable future
29 Aug 2022

Radical solutions that completely change the way we live clash with techno-optimistic proposals to engineer our climate. So far, none of the approaches have substantially lowered global CO2 emissions. On the contrary, our current way of life threatens to significantly exceed the net-zero target even by 2050. Understanding and improving the planet’s ability to sequester carbon therefore becomes a key building block in the global strategy to fight climate change.

Nature-based solutions for carbon sinks such as whales, elephants, mangroves, or seagrass play an essential role in this regard. They are, themselves, threatened by rising temperatures and human interventions in fragile ecosystems. Simple conservation efforts often clash with local development goals or are undermined by a lack of funding that threatens the economic viability of protection efforts. Various governance mechanisms have been implemented, often funded through philanthropic efforts. Nevertheless, nature reserves and maritime protected areas often do not live to their potential to prevent the deterioration of ecosystems and to function as carbon sinks to a greater extent.

Setting the stage for nature-based solutions, a conference organised by the Think Tank Geneva Macro Labs, in partnership with UNITAR, the ILO, UNCDF, and researchers at Harvard University’s Economic Department will lay the groundwork to discuss various governance mechanisms to protect ecosystems and elaborate on alternative, easy-to-scale solutions. Our experts from institutions such as the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), and UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub will help us to understand the essential contributions of keystone species and ecosystems such as blue whales, elephants, mangroves, or seagrass to climate regulation and biodiversity. The discussion will focus on existing governance mechanisms, their effectiveness, and their shortcomings in protecting natural assets. Importantly, we will zoom into how these governance mechanisms can support economic livelihoods for populations living with, or in close proximity to, the ecosystems in question, arguing that the role of people as stewards of ecosystems who are actively contributing to their restoration and conversation as well as current barriers and possible solutions to make ecological stewardship economically viable need more attention.

Geneva Macro Labs conference.

A key objective that Gemlabs aims to achieve with this conference will be to look into alternative, innovative funding mechanisms for eco-system protection. At the end of this one-day event, we hope to have contributed to a better understanding of how to convert natural assets into natural capital by valuing the ecological and economic services they provide. This entails an exploration of ideas to strengthen incentives for ecosystem maintenance and restauration, based on decentralised financial operations and government efforts, which could play a significant role in promoting economic development in low-income but nature-rich countries. These mechanisms range from innovative proposals to provide crypto-based digital tokens of individual ecosystem services, to more traditional approaches such as debt-for-nature swaps and green bonds. Gemlabs emphasizes the importance of inviting experts to discuss them in detail. It is crucial to identify financial mechanisms to address the lack of international collaboration and cooperation as a key impediment to effective climate change policies.

One key element of the discussion is governance mechanisms creating Triple Wins: for mitigation, for adaptation and for (local) development. Gemlabs wants to discuss how far and with which mechanisms protecting natural capital can become a driver of local economic development, support just transitions to a green economy, and provide new resources for an innovative and dynamic economic system.

* Ekkehard Ernst is the President of Geneva Macro Labs.
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