Just like our climate, nature is in crisis. But protecting and restoring nature and the culture that supports it is also part of how we take action on climate change.

To delve deeper into how nature is a climate solution, ACF asked a team at the University of Melbourne to investigate what this looks like in Australia. They brought together more than 30 researchers, Traditional Owners and experts to explore how protecting and restoring Country, culture and nature must be at the heart of action on climate change. 

Their vision and strategies show that, if we do this right, we can have a powerful impact. Not just for our climate and nature, but for our communities and economies as well. 

There are solutions to climate change in caring for Country, culture and nature. 

There is no single solution to the crises we all face. Stopping the mining and burning of coal, oil and gas remains the key way to stop climate change.

But nature-based solutions can help address climate change too, and provide other benefits. And we need to solve the climate and nature crises together, or we’ll solve neither.

Olkola_land_managers.pngOlkola Rangers manage land, plants and animals on Country, Cape York. Photo: Marian Reid

As supported by the research we must:

  • Invest in Indigenous leadership to heal and restore our land and waterways. This can include Ranger programs, forest management and water entitlements for First Nations people.
  • Protect the forests, wetlands and other ecosystems we have left with strong environment laws — and restore the places we’ve damaged.
  • Demand national leadership includes nature and culture-led solutions in the pathway to net zero emissions.
  • And find ways for smaller communities and initiatives to be part of the solution with better access to carbon markets and nature-based incentive schemes for everyone.  

Working on culture and nature solutions adds weight to pledges to end deforestation and restore nature made at the Glasgow climate summit.

Brendan Wintle from the University of Melbourne was one of the co-leaders in the project. He says “working on culture and nature solutions adds weight to pledges to end deforestation and restore nature made by countries, including Australia, at the Glasgow climate summit.”

And, as the report’s lead author, Rachel Morgain highlights, solutions based in nature and culture also “keep our air and waterways clean, renew our soils, provide food and pollination, keep us healthy and happy, and help mitigate the effects of extremes like droughts and floods, all while storing and sequestering carbon.” 

Sea_grass_restoration.jpgRestoring kelp forests in Sydney (Posidonia). Photo: John Turnbull. Flicker CC.   

Including First Nations voices is a big part of the climate solution.

The research emphasises the need to invest in and respect Indigenous leadership to guide how we heal and restore Country.

“One of the big barriers to living on this continent is a reluctance to accept and love what this continent is, to build connection and understanding, to connect people to place,” says Michael-Shawn Fletcher from the University of Melbourne. 

“We need to give up on the idea of locking away parts of Australia as ‘wilderness’ and recognise that we have to actively care for Country for the benefit of culture and nature, as well as mitigating climate change.”

Guided by the oldest culture on earth, we have the opportunity to stand up and secure a future rich in nature and culture that we’ll be proud to endow to future generations.

Not an excuse for fossil fuels.

There are some things to be careful about: Nature-based solutions cannot be used as an excuse to keep extracting and burning fossil fuels. 

Some activities that are claimed as solutions are not credible or lack integrity. Crediting activities — including some carbon storage activities — that don’t actually reduce emissions is a waste of money, undermines emissions reduction efforts, and undermines confidence in nature based solutions to climate change.  

But there are lots of solutions that do support emissions reductions, restore nature and create new opportunities — income streams, job opportunities and funding to support the costs of ecosystem restoration and management —  for those wanting to protect and restore our beautiful and unique landscapes and waterways.

Restoring nature will help address climate change. Photo: Cathy Ronalds/MAPgroup.  

Our nature and climate crises also cannot be solved separately. The big drivers of climate damage — polluting industries, excessive consumption, failing to value nature in our decision-making, putting profit before people and planet — are also what destroy our communities and culture, as well as our forests, oceans, plants and animals.

Rachel says we’re at a critical turning point not just for climate, but for nature as well.

“On the upside, we know what to do. Culture and nature-based solutions are a win-win, benefiting our communities and our biodiversity.”

Salt_marsh_pristine_and_under_restoration.jpgSalt marsh under restoration (L) and pristine (R) in Western Port Bay, Victoria. Photo: Melissa Wartman, Blue Carbon Lab.


Read the full report and more in The Conversation

Plus find out more about ways nature can be a climate solution and how we can save our big backyard and renew Australia. 

Header image: Indigenous-managed Olkola Country on Cape York. Photo: Kerry Trapnell

Australian Conservation Foundation