Consensus grows on nature-based solutions to climate change, but challenges remain

Experts point to growing awareness of the potential of nature-based solutions to climate change – but say work must be done to improve understanding and policy take-up.

News, 10 August 2018

In two new video interviews IIED researchers highlight the growing consensus about the value of nature-based solutions to climate change – including ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation – and set out some of the significant challenges that need to be addressed.  

Nathalie Seddon, IIED senior associate and Professor of Biodiversity at Oxford University, launched a new interactive web platform on nature-based policy solutions at the Adaptation Futures conference in Cape Town in June. 

Watch Nathalie Seddon discuss nature-based solutions to climate change in this video interview. The video is also available on IIED's YouTube channel

She said the conference had highlighted growing recognition of nature-based solutions to climate change. Seddon said: “There's a real sense of a growing consensus in the adaptation community, that nature – that working with, enhancing, restoring, nature – can not only help us with the drivers of climate change but also can deal with many of the major risks and hazards associated and linked to climate change, with many more projects emerging across the globe and funding being directed towards them.”

Seddon said that adaptation practitioners may not be taking into account the climate change upon nature itself. She said: “Nature is being severely impacted by warming, by flooding, by increasingly variable conditions in the environment – and we really need to work with and enhance nature, so that it can adapt to climate change and thereby deliver a suite of adaptation benefits.”

Seddon said another challenge was to appreciate the difference between monocultures and diverse ecosystems, which are more resilient to climate change effects and related impacts such as invasive species and new pathogens. She said: “If we want to implement nature-based solutions, the emphasis really needs to be on enhancing biodiversity and connectivity and not simply planting trees and so forth.”

She said a third challenge was communicating research outcomes effectively. Seddon said: “Every year hundreds if not thousands of studies are published but these aren't being consolidated and translated sufficiently well for the benefit of those designing and those trying to implement policies.”

The Nature-based Solutions Policy Platform presents information on climate change adaptation planning around the world. Developed by IIED and Oxford University,  it includes details of what countries are doing to incorporate nature-based solutions into their adaptation plans and is linked to an extensive database of scientific evidence for the effectiveness of different approaches.

Watch Hannah Reid discuss work to encourage more uptake of Ecosystem-based Adaptation 

Climate change researcher Hannah Reid also highlighted the growing recognition of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), and spoke about the challenges to effective implementation.

She reported that there had been ‘huge confusion’ over terminology at the Adaptation Futures conference. She said it was important to clarify terms such as ‘nature-based solutions’, ‘ecosystem-based adaptation’ and ‘eco-disaster risk reduction’ – because without clarity, it would not be possible to measure effectiveness of different approaches.

Nature-based solutions aim to use nature in tackling problems such as climate change, disaster management and water security.  Nature-based solutions to climate change can include a range of approaches, including EbA, ecosystem-based mitigation, forest-based climate change mitigation and many more.

Reid, a research consultant with IIED's Climate Change research group, said the challenges to implementing EbA include its cross-sectoral nature, capacity gaps and knowledge gaps, financing and mainstreaming.

She said a strong evidence base on EbA would allow policymakers to assess EbA's cost-effectiveness. To address this evidence gap, IIED and partners are working on the EbA Evidence and Policy project to bring together EbA case studies from around the globe and build an evidence base that can inform policy.

IIED and partners IUCN and UNEP-WCMC are also undertaking an inventory of EbA tools, designed to help practitioners and policymakers incorporate EbA into climate adaptation planning. The project has collated more than 200 tools for EbA.

Reid said UNEP-WCMC are developing a navigator that would help policymakers and practitioners access the tools and get information on which would be most appropriate. The navigator is due to be launched later in 2018.

The EbA Evidence and Policy project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). Its full name is Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation: Strengthening the evidence and informing policy. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports the IKI on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.


Hannah Reid, research consultant, IIED's Climate Change research group