Accelerating Nature Based Solutions (NBS)

Accelerating Nature Based Solutions (NBS)

NBS carbon projects? Too few places, too long in set up, and unfair to local communities.

Nature based solutions (NBS) can make a considerable contribution to the Paris climate goals but how do we accelerate their use?   Three ways:

  • Work with more organizations that have Trust Networks in place;
  • Help these organizations mature, as needed; and,
  • Take more risks (we can’t afford not to).

FIRST, increase the number and kinds of organizations that can carry out NBS projects within communities.  Non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, women’s groups, extension services, etc. Our selection criteria for the best community-based groups to work with is simple — do they have the trust of the local community, e.g. have they built a Trust Network?   What’s an indicator?  Ask.  Is there a history of working together?  What happened when things did not work out in the past? Assess the partnership –- is it one sided? Is it top down? Is it based on mutual respect?  These are very difficult projects to create, manage, monitor, measure and adapt.  We need this kind of an approach to get away from top-down delivery models.

We are not naïve. N4J staff have worked in 70 or more countries with hundreds of groups, and we recognize that the quality of these organizations varies enormously. So, the SECOND part of the acceleration process is to understand where organizations are on the continuum of organizational development, and to help them continue to evolve and develop so that they can successfully take on more and more NBS projects.

As we have said numerous times before, there will never be an in-country N4J office. That is not our model. (see Thrive Through Reinvention).  Our model is to work with a global network of organizations that we can support with technical and financial resources and by linking them to one another to promote peer-to-peer learning.  Nature for Justice is the bridge that connects local organizations to each other, and to the resources they need to mitigate climate change.  When we pull the pieces together, like the center point of a web, we see meaningful change, at scale. (We are working with a series of experts who provide advisory and mentoring help, when asked, for the CEO and senior staff of leading organizations.  Updates coming soon.)

FINALLY, from our vantage point, risk aversion is undermining investment in NBS projects. There is too much emphasis on making sure that the carbon credits that are issued meet the tests of additionality and permanence, and that they are verifiable, quantifiable and real before being recognized as verified carbon credits.  We are not disputing the importance of these prerequisites, particularly because so much of what we are doing is new and we are all learning as we go.

We are saying that the communities most at risk need investment now, to enable them to adopt practices that promote resilience and sequester carbon.  Can we take a portfolio approach to investment, that allows for some risk taking about whether or not verification standards will be met down the road?   Time is of the essence.  We recommend in some instances that we invest in resilience at the local level sooner, and measure as we go. 

Granted, not all projects will meet the standards the first time around, or ever. But some will, and why not give those most impacted by climate change a shot at a better, more secure life while simultaneously accelerating the adoption of NBS?   Where is the social justice in holding, a priori, those most impacted by climate change to a standard that they may not be able to meet?  Let’s trust and verify as we go.  There is no shame in failure. There is shame in not giving people a shot and trusting that it is in their self-interest to make it work. We are all learning as we go. This is the time to take more deliberate actions and take more risks in how we do things in pursuit of our shared objectives.

Such a collection of organizations that are trusted by communities, aided as needed with resources, and monitored to help them improve will enable us to:
  • Protect ecosystems from loss: conserve and protect biodiversity, ecosystem services, and irrecoverable carbon.
  • Manage working lands: Improved management of working landscapes without eliminating commodity production (e.g. regenerative or Climate Smart Agriculture).
  • Restore native cover: Tree/vegetation planting to restore and enhance what once was.
  (Source @ Bronson Griscom)

In SUMMARY, to accelerate the uptake and use of nature-based solutions: take more chances, build on the Trust Networks that are already there, and ensure local partner organization receive the management help they need to be better at delivering social justice.

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