Woman planting

Nature's role in the fight against climate change

The world must find many ways to reduce carbon emissions while addressing growing energy demand. One approach is to protect and restore ecosystems that absorb carbon dioxide, such as forests, grasslands and wetlands. Inside Energy reports.

By Melanie Cheary in Palencia, northern Spain on Apr 8, 2019

For 300 years, the mountains towering above him have been ravaged by overgrazing, logging and agricultural expansion. Yet Simón Ramos, who has lived in Palencia in northern Spain all his life, says it is time people learned to live in harmony with nature.

"Farming and reforestation can complement each other," the livestock farmer says. "I never get tired of this landscape. I can't imagine living anywhere else."

Ramos is one of several landowners working alongside the Dutch-based Land Life Company to plant trees on abandoned land surrounding grazing pastures. The aims are to restore biodiversity, improve soil quality and bring new opportunities to local communities.

Land Life's plan is to plant 300 hectares with 300,000 trees in two areas within the Castilla y León region by end of the year.

The reforestation project is part of a growing international effort to prevent the destruction of forests, increase reforestation and restore degraded land.

Simón Ramos, who lives in the mountains of Palencia in northern Spain, is among those that has given his support for a reforestation project in the area close to his farm
Simón Ramos, who lives in the mountains of Palencia in northern Spain, is among those that has given his support for a reforestation project in the area close to his farm

What is happening in Spain is just one link in a growing global chain of nature-based activities that Shell is undertaking

In the Netherlands, the National Forestry Department and Shell will plant more than 5 million trees over the next 12 years. In Queensland, Australia, Shell has established an 800-hectare endangered native forest regeneration project. 

Thousands of kilometres away in Malaysia, Shell and the Sarawak state are jointly studying the potential for a nature conservation, restoration and enhancement project. 

The climate science supports the approach. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes nature can play a significant role in tackling global carbon emissions.

And a joint study by a number of universities and non-governmental organisations - including the Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International - says that such nature-based solutions could reduce CO2 emissions by more than 11 billion tonnes a year by 2030. That is equivalent to the combined carbon emissions of the USA and the European Union. 

"That is huge potential, so if we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport," says Mark Tercek, Chief Executive of The Nature Conservancy. 

Reforestation projects like that which Shell and Land Life Company are starting to implement see forest rangers helping to return biodiversity
Reforestation projects like that which Shell and Land Life Company are starting to implement see forest rangers helping to return biodiversity

Rebekah Braswell, Chief Commercial Officer for Land Life, also sees great potential. "Imagine if we replicated these projects on a global scale. Ten projects like the one in Spain puts three million trees in the ground, a thousand puts 300 million trees in the ground.

"Forests are nature's time-tested tool for stabilising and nurturing our ecosystems. Investing in nature-based solutions is critical for the future of this generation and the next."

Broader purpose

Such nature-based efforts are part of Shell's ambition to reduce the Net Carbon Footprint of the energy products it sells by around 20% by 2035, and by around 50% by 2050, in step with society's progress towards meeting the goal of the Paris agreement on climate change. 

Shell is also increasing its investments in lower-carbon energy, such as wind, solar, hydrogen and battery electric vehicle charging. 

Carbon credits are at the centre of Shell's nature-based solutions. These are validated certificates that represent the avoidance or removal of 1 tonne of carbon dioxide.

Shell is already one of the most-established investors in carbon credits from a global portfolio of nature-based projects.

They include projects in Peru, for example, where 1.6 million hectares of threatened forest are being protected in the Cordillera Azul National Park Project. And in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, where the Katingan Mentaya project is protecting 157,000 hectares of peatland habitats.

Carbon credits will make it possible for motorists who fill up at Shell stations to drive carbon neutral. This offer will begin in the Netherlands in April and expand to other countries, including the UK in late 2019. 

Back in the mountains of Palencia, Simón Ramos surveys the landscape that has been his home for so long. "I'm fighting for our environment," he says. "We must protect our ecosystems." 

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