2015 Sustainability Report

Natural Infrastructure Solution

Shining a Light on the Climate Benefits of Natural Infrastructure

Cat® products are used to support infrastructure projects around the world, including natural infrastructure projects such as the restoration of forests, wetlands and other landscapes. We believe that Caterpillar’s expertise across industries puts us in a prime position to drive the global discussion on the importance of natural infrastructure and its restoration. Not only is sustainability one of our Core Values, but over our 90-year history we have also built relationships across a wide range of infrastructure businesses that will be critical to restoring the world’s natural landscapes. Already, Caterpillar has supported a number of major natural infrastructure restoration projects, including Everglades restoration projects in Florida, clean-up work in the wake of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and remediating Superfund sites across the United States.

Around the world, governments, industries and individuals are talking about climate change, the threats it poses to our livelihoods and the best ways to address it. The majority of the conversation has focused on the role energy plays in our global carbon footprint. Natural infrastructure – forests, prairies, agricultural lands, coastal landscapes, wetlands and other landscapes – also plays a vital role in managing carbon and supporting global sustainability. In 2015, to complement our existing initiatives focused on reduction of greenhouse gases, Caterpillar spearheaded an effort to raise awareness of the benefits of natural infrastructure.

Caterpillar has supported a number of major natural infrastructure restoration projects, including Everglades restoration projects in Florida, clean-up work in the wake of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and remediating Superfund sites across the United States.

Natural infrastructure sequesters billions of tons of carbon for productive use in plants and soils. Scientists say that more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life. The food, fiber and lumber produced from natural infrastructure provide our nourishment and much of the raw materials for clothing and housing. With the earth’s population expected to grow from 7 billion to more than 9 billion in the next few decades, ensuring the health and productivity of our natural infrastructure will be integral to meet the growing need for food and other basic human needs.

And yet, a recent United Nations report, the State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW), found 25 percent of the world’s lands are now considered “highly degraded” as a result of poor management practices. This means that an area roughly the size of North America may suffer from deforestation, desertification, severe erosion and wetland contamination. As a result, communities that depend on these lands may experience less productive farmland, poorer water quality and lower storm resilience. According to Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, restoring soils of degraded and desertified ecosystems has the potential to provide an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of in-soil carbon storage capacity annually, equivalent to approximately 3.5 billion to 11 billion tons of CO2 emissions.

In November 2015, Caterpillar hosted the first major national summit in the United States of diverse stakeholders who have a part to play in natural infrastructure restoration. The summit brought together leaders from engineering, construction, finance, governments, academia and non-governmental organizations to establish a coordinated effort across these industries to develop and deploy sustainable development solutions. Participants delved into the scientific and business cases for natural infrastructure restoration and brainstormed policies, business models and financing solutions needed to expand the world’s natural infrastructure restoration efforts.

Following the summit, Caterpillar has published a comprehensive white paper detailing the summit discussions. The paper highlights the recommendations that businesses and governments may consider to increase the effectiveness of efforts to restore natural infrastructure and keep pace with our need for the critical services, including carbon sequestration and resources, that natural ecosystems provide. Through the use of our products for natural infrastructure restoration projects and continuing to increase awareness, this is another way that Caterpillar can continue to build a more sustainable world.

Read More on Climate Policy.