Integrating Technology Into Nature

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Nature is all around us; it makes up the physical world where  we live. We depend on this vital resource for our health, livelihood, and well-being. More than half of the world’s total GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is highly dependent on nature and its ecosystem services. Currently, the economic cost of nature is estimated to be around $44 trillion. 

One of these invaluable services that nature  can offer is being able to help us adapt and build resilience against the impacts of climate change and provide more than one-third of the climate change mitigation required to reach global climate goals by 2030. However, the degradation of nature is happening at an alarming rate. According to the NatureTech Market report, degradation of ecological systems such as topsoil, the amazon, wetlands, fish and coral reefs are taking place as a result of human activity as shown in the figure below. We need to protect, restore and sustainably manage our natural resources, so how can technology help?

“Source: The NatureTech Market.”

What is NatureTech?

Nature Tech integrates modern technology to enable, accelerate and scale up nature’s ability to combat climate change and deliver ecological services that benefit people and the planet. Examples of NatureTech include technology to deploy Nature Based Solutions (NbS). This includes drone technology for reforestation which is technology to monitor, verify, and report on NbS which includes satellite monitoring, and technology to connect people involved in NbS projects. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Nature-based solutions (NbS) are initiatives that protect, manage and restore natural ecosystems and address societal challenges by enhancing human well-being and biodiversity.  For example, developing urban green spaces, and installing green roofs and walls to mitigate the urban heat island effect as well as promoting the sustainable management of forests to sequester carbon.

Nature tech can be divided into four broad categories:

1. Deployment is any technology designed to alleviate the challenges faced by NbS practitioners. For example, drone technology for reforestation and interventions that help farmers boost crop yield and livestock productivity.

2. Monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) is the process to measure and report climate, biodiversity and social benefits through technology such as satellite monitoring.

3. Transparency is the process to promote the visibility of the ownership and transactions of natural assets through the use of blockchain for carbon transactions and registries.

4. Connection through apps that can connect local communities to higher-paying markets, helping to drive the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

“Source: The NatureTech Market.

Why Should We Invest?

Large-scale deployment of natural climate solutions is needed to meet the 2030 climate goal of keeping global warming from increasing more than 1.5 degree celsius annually, as stated in the Paris Agreement. NatureTech has a crucial role in accelerating the deployment of NbS by aiding through mapping, restoration and sustainable management of natural resources. Through these Nature Based Solutions, NatureTech strives to achieve these goals and can also advance the economy and sustain livelihoods through the creation of jobs supported by nature positive- investments. Nature-positive investments are any investments that have a net positive impact on nature such as smart farming which utilizes satellite imagery and sensors to improve crop yields.  

Another example of nature-positive investments includes the creation of new opportunities for entrepreneurs to build nature-tech businesses that may not currently exist. Less than ten percent of climate finance flows were invested in NbS towards the Global South in 2018. NatureTech can play a role in attracting more finances by creating a marketplace, reducing transaction costs, enhancing supply chain transparency and analyzing current, past, and future trends. Technology can also ease communication and connectivity, through platforms like mobile apps that can connect projects on the ground to researchers and investors. Transparency and accountability around monitoring MRV is crucial in the race towards net zero. NatureTech can play an outsized role to solve many of the hurdles of nature- based climate solutions around MRV. 

About Post Author

Elena Edo

Elena Edo holds a masters in sustainable development practice with a specialization in climate change from the University of waterloo. Her research interests include climate change adaptation and vulnerability assessments, disaster risk management, nature-based solutions, urban sustainability, energy poverty, and clean growth. She is an advocate of BIPOC, low-income, and disability communities and is committed to promoting just and equitable climate policy through inclusive decision-making processes.
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