How the private sector got public funding for nature-based climate solutions

There’s no shortage of superlatives in relation to describing the Inflation Reduction Act. With $369 billion in diverse climate provisions, it’s the biggest climate bill passed within the U.S. through the country’s most politically divided era. And even with the entire dollars and drama, one marvel that hasn’t broken through is that this latest law takes a historic approach to using nature to tackle the climate crisis — to the tune of roughly $30 billion.

How did nature-based climate solutions retain such a big role on this climate laws despite the bill’s severe cutbacks in the ultimate negotiations? Aren’t nature-based solutions the “forgotten solution,” at all times sure to be the primary one on the cutting room floor? What made this time different? Corporate leaders’ five-year embrace of nature-based solutions could have played an enormous role.

The embrace began in earnest through the 2018 Global Climate Motion Summit, which named “land and ocean stewardship” as key challenge area for the world’s leaders. It felt like every voice, including those of corporate leaders, named the role of nature as indispensable. The commitments announced on nature-based solutions stood tall alongside clean energy and other sectors. 

Since that point, government and personal sector leadership on climate have been entwined in an upward spiral. For instance, while the states of the U.S. Climate Alliance developed and implemented their Natural and Working Lands Challenge, we saw the parallel maturation and rapid expansion of corporate initiatives akin to Walmart’s Project Gigaton, and the growing entrance of recent firms to nature-based investment.

This momentum accelerated in 2020 with the election of President Joe Biden and a pro-climate Democratic majority. This was paralleled by the event of the U.S. Chapter, probably the most diverse forest coalition ever, featuring huge corporate forest-climate pledges alongside pledges starting from state governments to the Girl Scouts. Just consider Aspiration, which made an initial U.S. pledge of 101 million trees by 2030, and has already revised that to 1 billion trees since it smashed its initial goal in a single yr, powered by its customers.

I can say from direct experience that this sent a message to elected officials who care about climate. I even have done direct advocacy on forests and climate change since 2007, and for much of that point, it was forestry organizations advocating for the role of our sector as a part of the answer.

Having firms from across the economy validate forests and other natural climate solutions has provided a complete latest level of credibility. Further, it has demonstrated to lawmakers that after they put precious public dollars into nature-based climate solutions, they will expect matching private funds and a ready field of implementers who will turn public dollars into results.

That positive impact includes each obvious and subtle ways firms have helped ready the sector. Consider that the Inflation Reduction Act includes a surprising $1.5 billion for equity-focused urban forestry grants through the U.S. Forest Service. Lawmakers were willing to make this investment because they saw the existence of well-prepared urban forestry partnerships in cities across the country, from Phoenix to Detroit, Seattle to Miami, which were powered with help from firms akin to Bank of America, Salesforce and Microsoft. This support has included developing Tree Equity Rating evaluation so cities can drive their investment with hard data, capability constructing for frontline partners and funding workforce development programs.

Lastly, corporate leaders have stepped up to make use of their connections to lawmakers to advocate for nature-based solutions right alongside their direct business interests in a bill akin to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Combining private and non-private forces together could make the difference between effective steps on climate change and game-changing leaps and bounds.

Microsoft, Walmart and Salesforce spoke out probably the most for this laws on Twitter and LinkedIn, in accordance with evaluation by the non-profits Influence Map and ClimateVoice. But many more firms helped advance this laws and spoke for the nature-based investment inside it. As one other example, 30 firms ranging the spectrum from outdoor industry leaders (REI) to multinational consumer goods (Unilever) signed a letter of support for the bill in contrast to those published by major trade associations.

I write all of this not only as a backward-looking celebration of corporate leadership. There are just a few critical lessons here.

  1. Corporate investment in nature-based solutions can validate them, and when done with exceptional quality, can influence how governments will implement their policies and funding.
  2. Corporate investment in holistic capacity-building, not only one-off projects, helps the sector show its readiness for public sector investment.
  3. Winning on climate policy, including nature-based solutions, requires diverse organizations combining their advocacy and communications efforts and playing to respective strengths.

Each of those points offers opportunities to reassess current nature-based efforts, and to design future corporate engagement for max uplift. It will tackle much more importance because the Inflation Reduction Act is implemented, and company partners can have the chance to strategically align their dollars and their advocacy to further rigorous, speedy and scaled implementation.

We also can expect implementation to spur more traditional public-private partnerships. To perform the bill’s ambitious goals, the federal government will need latest systems, improved supply chains and higher data collection. It’ll also need assistance recruiting, training and mobilizing a latest workforce. Who higher to reply this call than the various set of corporations who helped encourage this funding in the primary place?

Combining private and non-private forces together could make the difference between effective steps on climate change and game-changing leaps and bounds. It may very well be the difference between planting just a few trees and shading whole cities; restoring just a few acres or bringing resilience to whole landscapes; fighting climate change’s worst effects and truly reversing global warming.

Let’s make this historic moment even larger and take this chance together.


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