Jul 27, 2022

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Protecting the Earth and livelihoods with nature-based solutions

 Nature-based solutions are one of three strategic areas of focus for EB Impact initiatives and programmes. As a proven way of reducing carbon emissions through the protection and management of natural ecosystems, nature-based solutions have also taken greater precedence in international climate negotiations, forums and agendas. At a Clifford Chance event, a panel of experts emphasised the crucial role that nature based-solutions play in combating climate change, sustaining national economies and improving livelihoods[1].


As societies face increasingly intense challenges such as climate change and its impacts, rapid urbanisation, diminished food security and water resource provision, amongst others, nature-based solutions have been put forward by practitioners and policymakers alike as key to addressing these issues.


What are nature-based solutions?

Despite being a buzzword in climate conversations, the definition of nature-based solutions varies across various organisations and institutions. According toThe British Ecological Society, nature-based solutions are defined as solutions that “deliver benefits for biodiversity, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation”[2].This is supported at the institutional level – as the agenda and focus of international forums and discussions shift, not only on the global climate crisis but to highlight the interconnected issue of biodiversity loss. A report by the Global Future Council highlights that nature-based solutions have the potential to play a pivotal role in addressing “interlinked environmental crises”[3].


While the definition of nature-based solutions may vary, it is agreed these initiatives play an important role in enhancing ecosystems and nature to help people adapt to the impacts of climate change and mitigate the aftershocks of disasters. Such solutions emphasise the sustainable use of nature in solving multidimensional environmental, social and economic challenges.


Diverse approaches: examples of nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions encompass a wide range of approaches which includes the restoration of habitats, water resource management, disaster risk reduction, green infrastructure, and forest land management, amongst others. They differ from traditional biodiversity conservation and management approaches by specifically aiming to address broad societal goals including the improvement of socioeconomic livelihoods through poverty alleviation, amongst other things.


With the increased global interest in nature-based solutions to mitigate, adapt to and prevent climate change, the applications of nature-based solutions are wide-ranging. A study published in 2020[4] summarises the applications into three key dimensions: reducing exposure, reducing sensitivity and supporting adaptive capacity.



These examples, found across the globe, demonstrate the diverse range of approaches and dimensions that nature-based solutions have to offer. Such solutions have the ability to address a plethora of challenges and can be applied to diverse contexts, from rural communities to urban areas.


Overcoming the challenges to implementing nature-based solutions

However, like other solutions and approaches utilised to address the world’s most pressing environmental challenges we need to consider the political, economic and social barriers that impact the implementation and effectiveness of nature-based solutions. In turn, we can understand how to best finance, implement and manage these solutions.  


The importance of data and impact measurement

Robert Spencer highlights that impact measurement for nature-based solutions is crucial for them to create significant progress. He notes that the effectiveness of such solutions is dependent on our ability to “count, visualise, and explain nature-based solutions in financial terms”. He highlights that this is to strengthen funding for nature-based solutions as “monetising, and [the ability] to present the capabilities of natural systems in a way that financers … can understand and integrate into their normal planning and systems.” Thus, data and impact measurement is a crucial element in monitoring nature-based solutions.


A major barrier in this respect comes with identifying appropriate indicators and metrics for the social, environmental and economic effects of nature-based solutions. ‘Effectiveness’ may differ in different communities, and thus standardising metrics is difficult. The complex dynamics of ecological-social systems can be altered, for example, by shifts in political or public support of a certain solution, which makes measurement and the comparison of outcomes challenging. For this reason, context-specific metrics need to be devised, to help our understanding of the effectiveness and progress of nature-based solutions at the local level.


Lack of investments in nature-based solutions

Despite increased recognition on global forums and international climate negotiations, nature-based solutions are “deploringly undercapitalised” and the lack of financial flows is largely recognised as one of the main barriers to the effective implementation and monitoring of nature-based solutions.  


Funding for nature-based solutions comes from several sources from both the public and private sector, bilateral and multilateral institutions, as well as national and international funds. However, raising the necessary funds and gathering finances for such solutions is a complex issue. For example, a major barrier in terms of financing nature-based solutions is that it is difficult for one party/organisation to capitalise on the benefits, which in turn creates a problem regarding ownership.


What is emerging as a critical method of the provision of nature-based solutions financing, contributing to large-scale, long-term investments in collaboration and close partnerships between companies, communities, local and national governments, non-governmental organisations and financial institutions. Partnerships and collaboration between these various groups are reflective of the understanding and trust in the programme/solution being funded.



Nature-based solutions are gaining traction, both in international climate negotiations and actions, as well as in business discourse. Its dynamic, multidimensional and multifaceted approaches and the range of solutions that falls under the umbrella term of nature-based solutions have huge potential to address the causes and consequences of climate change, while simultaneously helping vulnerable communities adapt to its impacts. However, the challenges, in terms of financing and data gathering, pose barriers to the implementation of nature-based solutions. Overcoming such challenges requires greater collaboration across various stakeholders and actors, as well as a better context-specific understanding of the impacts of nature-based solutions.


[1] CliffordChance. (2021). Nature-based solutions to climate change. London:Clifford Chance, LLP. Retrieved fromhttps://financialmarketstoolkit.cliffordchance.com/content/micro-facm/en/financial-markets-resources/resources-by-type/thought-leadership-pieces/cop26--nature-based-solutions-to-climate-change/_jcr_content/parsys/download/file.res/cop26-nature-based-solutions-to-climate-change.pdf


[2] Stafford, R., Chamberlain, B.,Clavey, L., Gillingham, P.K., McKain, S., Morecroft, M.D., Morrison-Bell, C.and Watts, O. (Eds.) (2021). Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change in theUK: A Report by the British Ecological Society. London, UK. Available at: www.britishecologicalsociety.org/nature-basedsolutions


[3] IUCNStandard to boost impact of nature-based solutions to global challenges.IUCN. (2022). Retrieved 20 June 2022, from https://www.iucn.org/news/nature-based-solutions/202007/iucn-standard-boost-impact-nature-based-solutions-global-challenges.


[4] Seddon N, Chausson A, Berry P, Girardin CAJ, SmithA, Turner B. 2020Understanding the value and limits of nature-based solutionsto climate change and other global challenges. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B375:20190120.http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.012

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