‘When at Woodhurst’: Diary of an intern

‘When at Woodhurst’: Diary of an intern

Maud Swanborough
by Maud Swanborough

As Woodhurst’s latest intern, I had the privilege of attending the UN Global Compact debate on Nature vs Technology as part of their Climate Action Summit. Set in the Shard amongst the clouds, this fiery debate saw team ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ challenge novel ‘Green Technologies’ on which approach was the most effective solution for addressing climate change. Whilst ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ won the debate, it was clear that both nature and technology must work in unison to address climate change.

The Motion:

Green technologies cannot substitute for nature in supporting life on Earth. Therefore, this house believes that in our efforts to tackle climate change investment in the protection and restoration of nature must be prioritised over the development of novel technologies.’

Nature-based solutions vs green technologies

5 key takeaways from the Nature vs Technology debate:

1. The time is now – technology addresses the urgency that we really require.

Along with many other opportunities for innovation, it can bring cost and time efficiency. Indeed, carbon capture technologies can potentially capture up to 90% of emissions generated by industrial facilities, at far faster rates than nature-based solutions like reforestation.

2. Technology plays a significant role in helping measure and monitor both our climatic impact, and any progress made towards mitigating our influence on the planet

This ties into the recent blog post, where I reflected on how several apps are helping individuals shift towards more climate friendly purchases and investments, with the help of transaction data acquired through Open Banking.

3. While data is key to harnessing effective green technologies, it currently plays a central role to excessive carbon emissions.

If we are to dive into green technologies as a solution, we need to be aware of the existing carbon emissions technology itself is emitting and find greener alternatives – global emissions from cloud computing contribute to as much as 3.7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which even exceeds emissions from commercial flights.

4. A well-working governance infrastructure to address the ‘G’ in ESG needs to put individuals and communities at the heart of projects

Grassroot communities can embrace nature-based solutions, allowing individuals to become part of a socially-equitable transition that can also revolutionise the daily lives of millions who rely on ecosystem services for their survival.

5. Technology is focusing too narrowly on carbon

Climate change is one of the nine planetary boundaries: addressing the thresholds in unison, with nature at the centre, is crucial. Meanwhile, we need to ensure we are implementing green technology for the right reason. Monetising nature and ignoring how tech should be used to complement its natural processes could bring unintended negative consequences, adding ‘fuel to the fire’.

Final thoughts:
Whilst it was evident is there is still so much complexity and interconnectedness to nature that needs to be understood. Technology alone is not the perfect solution, but nor are nature-based solutions. While it may be a difficult balancing act, we need to ensure that any technology that interferes with natural processes is executed to serve nature.

‘We are a curious Ape. We need to not only respect planetary boundaries, but also keep our hands off some of nature to let it do its own things without interference’

Matthew Frith, Director of Policy and Research, London Wildlife Trust
The two teams debating the motion

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