First coined as a term by the IUCN 20 years ago, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are gaining steam across the globe. Major international organizations, large donors, NGOs, and governments see the potential far-ranging benefits of sponsoring NbS projects. Both large and smaller-scale organizations – from the UN, The World Bank, and Conservation International to The Wetlands International and The Jane Goodall Institute – and of course Nature for Justice. And money is being invested into these projects at an accelerating rate.
The G20 – the EU and 19 of the world’s largest economies – funds 92% of global investments in Nature-based Solutions, but is mostly spent on domestic initiatives. The group invests $120 billion each year on Nature-based Solutions, assets, and activities, according to the State of Finance for Nature in the G20 report, released in January 2022.
While there is no central database on NbS, It is known that the number of such projects is increasing globally as more countries and organizations recognize the benefits of using nature to address various environmental and societal challenges.
Recent research indicates that Nature-based Solutions can achieve up to 37 percent of the way to the Paris Climate Target to keep global temperature increases under two degrees celsius by 2030.
So What is a Nature-based Solution?
Nature-based Solutions refer to conservation and restoration efforts that use natural processes to mitigate the impacts of climate change on local populations – and protect the environment. These solutions often involve protecting and managing natural habitats. These habitats include forests, wetlands, mangrove swamps, peat bogs, and grasslands, among others. All of these lands absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide other ecosystem services such as water purification and flood control. They also provide support for the biodiversity that dwells within them. Examples of nature-based solutions to climate change include:
1. Reforestation and afforestation: Planting trees and forests can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
One example of a large and ongoing reforestation project in the world is the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai in 1977. Using a watershed-based approach, GBM communities have planted over 51 million trees in Kenya — in the highlands of Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares, and the Mau Complex, as well as on private lands.
The Movement sustainably supports and diversifies the sources of income for the communities neighboring the forest by generating income from tree planting activities and promoting alternative and profitable use of the forest.
2. Wetland restoration: Wetlands, such as marshes and swamps, can absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide. Restoring damaged wetlands can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Since 2008, 100,000 residents in 350 villages planted 17,000 hectares of mangroves in the Sine-Saloum Delta and Casamance in western Senegal. The new mangroves totaled nearly 80 million trees, leading to new habitats for 18,000 metric tonnes of fish and other marine species that are now responsibly harvested for production and consumption for the local populations of the two regions.
These new mangroves will also serve to limit coastal erosion in the region and give new life to communities that were previously at risk of losing some of the lands they called home to climate change and soil loss.
Scientists of the project predict that these newly developed mangroves can also sequester 500,000 tonnes of CO2 within only 20 years of the project’s launch.
3. Protecting and managing natural habitats: Protecting and managing natural habitats, such as forests, grasslands, and coral reefs can help to preserve their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide and provide other ecosystem services.
The Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Improvement Plan, led by the Australian government aims to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef by reducing the amount of pollution and sediment flowing into the reef from nearby agricultural and urban areas.
The plan includes a variety of measures such as improving land management practices, investing in new infrastructure to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, and funding research to better understand the impacts of pollution on the reef.
The project has been successful in reducing the amount of pollution flowing into the reef and improving the overall health of the coral and other marine life.
Overall, Nature-based Solutions can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to address the challenges of climate change, while also providing a range of other benefits to people, the local ecology, and the larger environment.
NbS and Climate Change
- Carbon sequestration: Natural habitats, such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands, can absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Protecting and managing these habitats can help to reduce the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is a key goal in addressing climate change.
- Ecosystem services: Nature-based solutions can provide a range of ecosystem services, such as water purification, flood control, and habitat for wildlife. These services can help to reduce the impacts of climate change and improve the quality of life for people who depend on the local ecosystem for economic support.
- Cost-effectiveness: In many cases, nature-based solutions can be more cost-effective than traditional engineering solutions for addressing climate change challenges. For example, protecting and managing natural habitats may be more cost-effective than building expensive infrastructure to protect against flooding.
- Multiple benefits: Nature-based solutions often provide a range of benefits beyond climate change mitigation, such as improved air and water quality, increased biodiversity, and improved public health.
In summary, Nature-based Solutions have the potential to play a significant role in addressing the challenges of climate change, while also providing a range of other benefits to people, their economies, and the environment.
While recent research indicates that Nature-based Solutions can achieve up to 37 percent of the way to the Paris Climate Target to keep global temperature increases under two degrees celsius by 2030. As the chart above shows, much more money needs to be invested in NbS. But no matter the investment, Nature-based Solutions, are by no means sufficient. To meet the 2030 goals, the world will also have to curtail drastically its dependence on fossil fuels.
Note: The first, rough draft of this blog post was generated by ChatGPT.