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Climate change   |   Environment & ethics

Restore ecosystems to tackle climate change

Forest
Forests store large amounts of carbon dioxide. Image Oleksandr Pidvalnyi. 

Restoring and protecting ecosystems that can naturally draw carbon dioxide out of the air is a “thrilling but neglected” approach to averting climate chaos.

That’s the message from a new campaign backed by some of the world’s leading environment activists, including Swedish schoolgirl and climate activist Greta Thunberg, journalist George Monbiot and the heads of Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth, in an open letter published in the Guardian yesterday.

Other signatories included the authors Margaret Attwood and Philip Pullman, musician Brian Eno, chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

“The world faces two existential crises, developing with terrifying speed: climate breakdown and ecological breakdown. Neither is being addressed with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from spiralling into collapse,” the letter stated.

“We are writing to champion a thrilling but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the living world: natural climate solutions. This means drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems.”

Restoring ecosystems such as forests, peatlands, salt marshes and other crucial ecosystems could help remove and store “large amounts of carbon”.

Protecting these ecosystems would also help minimise a sixth mass extinction of the world’s wildlife and biodiversity, and help protect communities’ resilience against climate breakdown, the letter said. 

The campaigners called for governments to support “natural climate solutions” with research, funding and political commitment, but warned that the approach should not substitute the rapid decarbonisation of industrial economies.

“A committed and well-funded programme to address all the causes of climate chaos, including natural climate solutions, could help us hold the heating of the planet below 1.5C,” the letter said.

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