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Prioritizing Targets in Achieving Sustainability Goals

Forest in Shirui Kashung mountain.

Natural Capital Exchange is a science-driven forest carbon marketplace delivering large-scale, immediate impact for climate and communities. By using high integrity data to generate carbon credits that connect corporations to family forests, NCX is democratizing access to markets while enabling real climate action.

By Salam Rajesh

In recent years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had urged upon the world community, in particular sustainability leaders, to initiate urgent actions to meet deadlines on climate issues as set by the United Nations. On this note the IPCC expects sustainability leaders to prioritize their commitments in achieving climate goals with the deadlines set for 2030 and 2050.

In tune with this agenda, a recent report of the Natural Capital Exchange (NCX), titled as ‘Charting the Path’ (May, 2022), profiles the results of a survey conducted on sustainability leaders’ priorities on two important aspects, namely, Sustainability Budgets and Priorities, and Trusts & Perceptions of Offsets.

During January earlier this year, the NCX had interviewed 250 sustainability leaders from across the United States as case study to understand how they are dealing and progressing with the issue. The NCX report is intended to provide sustainability professionals with insights on what they are basically thinking about and prioritizing on sustainability goals.

The Natural Capital Exchange is a science-driven forest carbon marketplace delivering large-scale, immediate impact for climate and communities. By using high integrity data to generate carbon credits that connect corporations to family forests, NCX is democratizing access to markets while enabling real climate action.

The sustainability goals of the United Nations outline seventeen specific Sustainable Development Goals to reduce global poverty and hunger in the context of climate change and to reduce inequalities as a means to achieve sustainability on different fronts, including activating local communities in achieving ecosystem restoration.

On the question placed to sustainable leaders on their sustainability priorities, cent per cent of the interviewees answered that they considered meeting climate commitments as their top priority. This was closely followed at 75 percent on circular economy and supporting local communities, with equal concerns on water issues – that is, the availability of drinking water, and the restoration and rejuvenation of water sources.

Over the question on how sustainability leaders will commit to investments in meeting the sustainability goals, most replied they expect their budgets to grow over time as the target dates for climate commitments draw closer and as they continue to invest in mitigating carbon from their sup­ply chain.

Quite interesting is the suggestion that investing in carbon offsets with co-benefits can enable budget-constrained sustainability leaders to support multiple sustainability goals at once such as supporting communities, wildlife conservation, water use and fire risk reduction.

An important aspect of the survey focused on analyzing the commitment level of the sustainability leaders and their level of knowledge on carbon offsets. Replying on the question how on thinking about carbon emissions and the different methods that can be leveraged to either remove or offset carbon emissions, cent per cent replied they are aware of direct air carbon capture.

Similarly, cent per cent replied they are aware of forest carbon offsets, while 75 percent replied they are aware of blue carbon offsets and soil carbon offsets. The analysis therefore suggests that most are aware of the processes underlying carbon emissions and of carbon offsets.

On carbon pricing, the question on the price that sustainability leaders expect to pay per tonne in the year 2025 for high quality carbon offsets, the finding yielded an expectation of a 26 percent rise to 40 US dollar per tonne in 2025 as against the current expected price ranging between 10 to 30 US dollars per tonne.

In its totality, the NCX report points to an ongoing tussle to balance several goals with limited budgets, but points to signs of optimism amongst sustainability leaders as their resources are expected to grow.

Out of all their commitments, meeting climate goals is the top driver of spend, and carbon offsets would continue to grow in importance in their net-zero strategy portfolio. Quality is a fundamental part of the equation for maximizing the impact of offset purchases. The report suggests increase in budgets and demand on the rise, while availability for quality offsets is expected to decrease.

Deviating from this intense discussion on carbon offsetting, it is equally interesting to note a summarization on the impacts of green economy on the SDGs, as is emphasized by a recent report titled “Green Economy and Sustainable Development” in the open access journal ‘Energies’ (2022).

Editors Sergey Zhironkin and Michal Cehlar says, “Green economy technologies that ensure the transition to sustainable development are initially focused on the optimal and integrated use of non-renewable resources and the maximum involvement of renewable resources in the production of goods specific for a post-industrial era. Based on this, the evolution of sustainable development methodology should be carried out in the system of innovative development of industrial technologies and their adaptation to the latest trends in energy and urbanism, ecology, finance and investment”.

At the same time, Sergey and Michal have this to say: “Sustainable development is associated with increasing the responsibility of business, governments and the entire society, around the world, for achieving a balance between current and future needs for subsoils, energy, traditional and new materials, and transport. Such responsibility equalizes environmental and social problems (poverty and malnutrition, inequalities in access to wealth and income distribution), which often have common roots”.

The challenge, as the authors point out, is ‘to achieve the sustainable development goals set by the UN (including ensuring universal access to affordable and clean energy sources, promoting decent work and economic growth, ensuring sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, et al.), without a simultaneous deterioration in the functioning of existing industries that concentrate investments, jobs, and tax payments’.

A second challenge is the ‘sustainable development of the energy sector and the expansion of its “green” segment producing zero emissions’. As the authors say, “The key trend in the development of modern industry is its ESG transformation, which combines the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions in energy production and transport (in the economy as a whole – a decrease in specific energy consumption), advances social responsibility and the efficiency of stakeholders’ interactions, in solving sustainable development problems”.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected])

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