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In harmony with nature

  • Published at 01:57 pm November 4th, 2020
Climate change
Nature-based Solutions (NbS): From definition to implementation Photo: Plan Bleu & IUCN

Takeaways from CBA14 for scaling up Nature-based Solutions (NbS) efforts for climate change adaptation

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) have been drawing unique attention among the community of policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in all levels of discussions in recent times.

Practitioners are trying to see how nature’s services can be explored more to help the indigenous people and local communities for adapting to the changing climate and its various impacts; researchers are trying to investigate how to measure the economic and non-economic benefits of services we are receiving from nature, and policymakers are developing nature-driven strategies for responding to the climate crisis. 

The recently held 14 th Community-based Adaptation (CBA14) conference also discussed NbS as one of the five key action tracks. This year’s conference took place online from September 21 – 25 where many sessions were designed on thematic topics related to NbS, which included building community resilience through NbS, community-led nature-based technologies, adaptation through NbS, monitoring and evaluating ecosystem- based adaptation (EbA), and financing NbS. 

Advantages of Nature-based Solutions (NbS)

Different sessions have captured discussions around multiple benefits of this integrated approach, where the concept is grounded in the knowledge that natural and carefully managed ecosystems produce a diverse range of goods and services for human well-being; and promote sustainable management, protection and restoration of natural habitats and biodiversity.

The advantage of NbS over other conventional approaches is that NbS are more holistic and can produce multiple benefits and co-benefits for people and nature. NbS range from restoring coastal ecosystems or mangroves that can protect people and lands against the impacts of climate change-related disasters, to protecting a wetland, to building green infrastructures in urban areas to reduce heat effects or solving the waterlogging crisis.

When we talk about NbS through swamp forest restoration or protected area co-management, people remain in the centre of these interventions. Hence, NbS is a win for both people and biodiversity which bring good returns for the communities.

Challenges hindering effective implementation of NbS

The current political economy, lack of political will, lack of comprehensive planning, inadequate finance, limited technical capacities are limiting the large-scale implementation of NbS. Often, we see that built infrastructures are being viewed as being stronger options over natural solutions or mixing green-grey solutions.

Communities are not being involved fully and local voices are not being heard, and we often ignore local knowledge, culture, and tradition for different adaptation interventions. Hence it has been challenging to mainstream NbS into local and national level policies. It is also very difficult to monitor and evaluate NbS, especially attributing NbS to improved resilience, which makes it even harder to make a strong case for NbS.

Takeaways for scaling up the NbS efforts for adaptation

In order to mainstream the NbS approach in the national and local level policy planning process and to make the implementations happen, we would need stronger evidence-based NbS for the researchers and practitioners with stronger leadership capacities from both communities and the decision-makers. Education and awareness can come as key topics here. We need to clarify and enhance the level of understanding about NbS among stakeholders, map out their knowledge and knowledge needs and identify how national and international research could better inform the design and implementation of NbS.

Social capital and collective actions are critical for building resilience for those interlinked societal challenges although it takes time to build. Governments, donors, and development partners need to provide long-term finance and support to build strong, local-based collective organizations to mobilize, support and scale-up NbS for adaptation at scale and in the longer-term.

Indigenous people, women, and local communities are already championing NbS and hold valuable traditional knowledge, building on their decades of experiences of implementing those integrated solutions. This traditional knowledge needs to be linked with science and supported by enabling policies. And the policy should be understandable to the local people to act accordingly. Sustainable nature-based adaptation must be locally embedded to ensure structural financing. Promoting payment for ecosystem services can be a means to ensure sustainability. Also, we need to identify best practices in the implementation of NbS across the globe, as well as major obstacles to policy uptake and practice across the different geographical spectrum.

Many strong cases have been presented during the conference on the importance of involving local communities in the intervention and building mutual trusts among local-level actors for successful implementation of any interventions. For example, a case on mangrove afforestation had been presented by Friendship, which is an NGO in Bangladesh.  They have made their afforestation initiative effective by establishing local cooperation through building a relationship of trusts among stakeholders. The project was designed in such a way that communities themselves ensure the protection of the forest and receive new skills and capacities to gain new livelihood opportunities and empowerment, whereas local authorities with technical support from the national government departments stay in a better position to preserve forests on the longer-term having cooperation from the community.

Therefore, we can see that NbS promote adaptation to address key interlinked societal challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss; and build holistic resilience to future and unanticipated global challenges like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which is a wake-up call on nature.

Nature-based adaptation planning requires transdisciplinary approaches to bring together different actors' efforts and capacities. While political manipulation of local leaders, weak native administration, the collapse of a traditional system, exclusion of women and youth in the decision-making and current policy development process – all these acts as barriers to implement and scale-up the NbS; we must tap into the potential of NbS by ensuring more financial and human resources and capacity development of relevant actors for promoting systematic mainstreaming and sustainable development.

The closing plenary session of the CBA14 also highlighted the urge of the UK minister Zac Goldsmith: “To allocate more finance to NbS to help tackle climate change, as there is no pathway to net-zero emissions without a major effort to protect and restore nature.”

The launch of the ‘Global Standard of NbS’ in July 2020 also supports to define and identify NbS through standardized definitions and components for ensuring their effective implementation. So, for scaling-up the NbS efforts, we need to ask ourselves - how the voices and knowledge of local people can be used more in policy and planning, how we can draw more money for nature-focused interventions, and how to ensure good governance for formulating and implementing policies to promote development in harmony with nature.

Tasfia Tasnim is working as a Senior Research Associate at ICCCAD. Her working domains are nature- based solutions, livelihood resilience and climate finance. Can be reached at [email protected]