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The UAE Consensus: the demise of fossil-backed wealth and the dawn of nature-backed wealth

At The Landbanking Group, we are committed to push the limits towards a new paradigm of prosperity. But also to accept that consensus building in rule-based systems is arduous and limiting at times. If COP28 has taught us anything, it is that a safe future requires us to disrupt almost every aspect of today’s economy. But also that we will not arrive there without taking those along who fear the change most. In Dubai, our delegation was on the ground and met with governments, corporations, financial institutions and NGOs to propose a new idea that sits beyond the limits of today’s convention whilst providing value to those most hesitant to change. We want to bring Nature on the Balance Sheet.  

COP28 and the Global Stocktake

The UAE Consensus may go down as a document that will be looked at by posterity . Not because of its strength but because of its importance. To some, it’s the “Beginning of the end of the fossil age”, to some, it’s a “death warrant”.  

It urges nations to transition from fossil fuels and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The language, though not explicitly calling for a phase-out, is stronger than in earlier drafts. The proposed text emphasizes a just and orderly transition, with a focus on accelerating action in the critical decade to meet the 2050 target. Notably, it also encourages countries to accelerate efforts toward the phase-down of unabated coal power, a point that may face resistance from coal-dependent economies like India and China. The COP 28 Presidency has published the revised draft texts, sparking a mix of cautious optimism and anxieties among delegates and observers. The atmosphere is charged as stakeholders analyze the implications, with debates and diplomatic maneuvers expected in the coming hours. The outcome remains uncertain, and opinions vary on whether the revised text will pave the way for a successful COP 28 or present another stumbling block.

COP28 and the future of natural systems 

The need for Nature Funding was mentioned directly in the Global Goal on Adaption (GGA), which spoke of “accelerating the use of ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based solutions” and there is growing recognition that climate goals demand nature-positivity. A promising 2030 deforestation goal was also part of the final text. During COP's Nature, Land Use and Ocean Day and with $186,6 million, major financing was announced for nature and climate to foster forests mangroves and the ocean. The commitments are built on those made during COP28's World Climate Action Summit (WCAS) on 2nd December, where $2.5 billion were mobilized to protect and restore nature. African Parks, Olam and The Landbanking Group jointly presented and discussed the Verified Nature Unit (VNU) as a novel approach to outcome-based nature finance. Debates around a carbon market supervisory body (Art. 6.4) and the accounting of different types of credits (Art 6.2) were not resolved. Key questions related to the permanence of the reductions/removals claimed will need to be addressed at COP 29. This is an unfortunate outcome on Paris Articles 6.2. and 6.4 for those seeking to build vibrant and credible carbon markets.  Efforts to converge to common standards were replete driven e.g., by the ICVCM, VCMI, Three Cairs; the CORSIA-verifiers or the US commodities regulator. Less formally, COP28 had many companies talk about direct project sourcing and new attempts to demonstrate nature contributions outside the REDD+ system.  

COP28 and the food system transition

COP28 witnessed a substantial mobilization of over USD $7.1 billion for climate-positive action in the food system sector. The signing of the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action by over 150 countries signifies a collective commitment to integrating food and land use targets into their Nationally determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2025. This integration reflects a holistic approach to addressing climate challenges within the context of sustainable agriculture. We also saw the launch of a U$160M fund called Regenerative Landscapes, an initiative led by World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as well as an Alliance for Champions of Food Sytems Transformation (ACF) to tackle food systems change in the global south. An effort in consideration of the urgently required adaptation for the most vulnerable as well as countries with some headspace to mitigate. Parties highlighted the need for a holistic, inclusive, and practical approach to the just transition. Such an approach was also presented by @ the Landbbanking Group partner @ Slow (forest coffee) at COP.  

COP28 and NatureTech

TLG's founder Prof. Dr. Martin Stuchtey at a dinner with the NatureTech ecosystem

We are seeing massive growth and maturing in Nature & Finance Tech companies, many of them present at COP28. We co-hosted with Nature4Climate, NatureFinance , Capitals Coalition and Global Commons Alliance a dinner with the leading Nature & Finance Tech companies present at COP28. All of them committed to Natural Capital, inspired by technology and in service of Montreal and Paris Agreement. It was a parade of leading scientists and bold ideas on how to end the under-appreciation of nature. And it nurtured the recognition that the NatureTech community cannot just build technology. It must act as responsible shaper of equitable nature markets.

COP28 and Climate Accountability

Tthe COP28 Presidency launched the Net-Zero Transition Charter for the Private Sector, promoting accountability through public net-zero emissions pledges and targets. This strenghtens the TNFD mandate even further: It is clearly changing the way nature and biodiversity is discussed and incorporated into reporting. 150 businesses and financial institutions have pledged to adopt climate and nature targets using the SBTi and SBTN frameworks. These commitments involve increasing investments in nature-based solutions and adhering to the TNFD for assessing and disclosing their environmental impact and risks.  On a European level, the EU Commission is continuing efforts with partner countries to ensure a successful transition to deforestation-free supply chains. The global fight against deforestation and forest degradation is crucial to achieve global commitments to address climate change and biodiversity loss. The new EU law on deforestation – EUDR – is an important turning point in this endeavor. (See our Article about the EUDR).

Building on the momentum, the COP28 Presidency launched the Net-Zero Transition Charter for the Private Sector, promoting accountability through public net-zero emissions pledges and targets.  

COP28 and the Nature Equity proposition

Despite progress, current investment levels fall short in areas directly affected by value chains and business interests. To address this gap, the Landbanking team started its consultation for the Nature Equity proposition. Nature Equity introduces a novel contractual design establishing an equitable contract between providers and users of Natural Capital. This approach, collateralized through biophysical natural capital accounts and recognized as a capital asset under international accounting standards, offers a platform for inclusive transactions benefiting both land stewards and investors. This approach incentivizes and rewards Natural Capital investments throughout the value chain, ensuring a more equitable stakeholder economy, and fostering a playing field that accommodates CEOs and diverse market actors alike. The consultation period will run until January 12th. Interested parties will be able to access the paper here, we will publish it soon. Together, let’s recognize limits, and then push them!


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About the author

Prof. Dr. Martin Stuchtey

The Landbanking Group

Prof. Dr. Martin R. Stuchtey is founder of the „The Landbanking Group“ – a company that aspires to shift landuse patterns at a planetary scale by turning ecosystem improvements into a fiduciary-grade asset class. Martin is also founder of SYSTEMIQ, a system change company to drive the attainment of the Paris climate agreement. He is member of many boards, incl. the Alfred-Herrhausen Society, Senckenberg and Forum Alpbach. He spent 20 years with McKinsey & Co., finally as Director of the Centre for Business & Environment and managing partner Munich. Before he was exploration geologist in Africa and officer in the German Alpine military forces. He holds a chair for resource strategies and management at the University of Innsbruck. He is author of many papers, reports, newspaper and television contributions and the book „A Good Disruption – Redefining Growth in the Twenty-first Century”. He holds degrees from the Rhodes University, the WHU Coblence, Lancaster, Dresden and Innsbruck University. He is married to book author and entrepreneur Dr. Sonja Stuchtey (with whom he co-leads The Landbanking Group), father of six, organic farmer in the Austrian Alps and an avid Alpinist.

About the author

Felipe Villela

The Landbanking Group

Felipe is a Brazilian Impact Entrepreneur, Business Development Manager at The Landbanking Group, Forbes Under30, Board Member, TEDxSpeaker, MIT Solver, Keynote Speaker, LinkedIn Influencer and ex-Founder of reNature. Felipe has 12+ years experience in Regenerative Agriculture, Food Systems & Nature Finance. He has been a Strategic Advisor of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) Action Track 3: Boost Nature-Positive Production and Lead Author at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for their Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) for Business on Brief 3: The Role of Business in Transforming our Food Systems. Board Member of reNature Foundation, Climate Bonds Initiative, Moet Hennessy (LVMH Group) World Living Soils Forum (WLSF) and Mãe Terra (Unilever brand). As well as Global Ambassador for the Food & Land Use Coalition (FOLU) and Thought for Food (TFF).

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