Nature-Based Solutions: From Planning to Implementation
Nature is often overlooked as an avenue for countries to reach their climate goals. Nature-based solutions (NBS) ensure healthy ecosystems and biodiversity and provide one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to address climate change while offering numerous benefits to human well-being.
The IUCN defines nature-based solutions as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.” For example, forests and other natural vegetation such as mangroves stabilize slopes, prevent landslides, serve as a habitat for species, regulate water flows preventing flooding, protect coastal communities, and sequester thousands of tons of carbon (IIED). In fact, nature-based solutions can account for more than 30 percent of the reductions required by 2030 in the Paris Agreement (N4C).
To share practical guidance on the inclusion and implementation of nature in national climate strategies, the NDC Partnership hosted a virtual event on 2 July focused on planning and implementing NBS in nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The webinar featured countries with concrete NBS in their national climate plans as well as NBS experts from the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, GIZ, and the Nature Conservancy.
Currently, only 5.5 percent of total requests for NDC implementation support received by the NDC Partnership include nature-based solutions, which is a small percentage when compared to other areas such as disaster risk management, adaptation, and resilience. These areas make up 24 percent of total requests while agriculture makes up 13 percent of total requests. More than two-thirds of requests are supported by implementing and developing partners (IP/DPs). This level of support is above average for all requests received by the NDC Partnership and signifies that IP/DPs are eager to support nature-based solutions. Therefore, the challenge around NBS implementation is not IP/DP support, but rather how to encourage countries to expand the inclusion of NBS to enhance their national climate efforts in a way that is integrated, detailed, and measurable.
Figure 1: Most NBS requests to the NDC Partnership come from Latin America and the Caribbean or Sub-Saharan Africa.
Since there are many types of NBS, the most beneficial solutions vary from region to region. During the webinar on 2 July, the Partnership invited Grenada and Jordan to speak about their experiences with implementing NBS.
Grenada stands out as a country that is including several NBS in their current and enhanced NDC. Grenada is enhancing climate resilience and conserving species and genetic diversity through knowledge exchange around afforestation and reforestation. The country is organizing training programs and workshops, enhancing data collection and management, establishing M&E systems, planting acres of trees, conserving and protecting terrestrial areas, and adopting Protected Area legislation. The NDC Partnership helps connect Grenada with support to implement their training programs, capacity building workshops, and M&E systems.
One specific NBS project focused on restoration and community co-management of mangroves. Beginning in the Northeast coastland three years ago, the socio-economically vulnerable communities along the coastline were experiencing severe coastal erosion which was exacerbated by the cutting down of local mangroves to sell for charcoal wood burning.
The community realized their practices were unsustainable and approached the government to form a partnership for sustainable solutions. This led to a program to restore wetlands and replant mangroves and fast-growing species, which increases the health of the mangrove forest and associated ecosystems and reduces community vulnerabilities to adverse climate change impacts. About 1,300 mangrove seedlings have been planted, along with other coastal plant species.
Grenada then carried out trainings for beekeeping and honey harvesting to serve as alternative livelihoods. Through a community co-management approach, community members continue to take ongoing measurements to understand and measure their progress and benefits.
Learning from their initiatives, Grenada stresses that an integrated approach to NBS is key. To ensure an integrated approach, there needs to be consistent and continual community engagement, ownership, and inclusion. The benefits and successes of NBS are not always immediate and long-term investments at the community level are a critical element for successful NBS actions.
Jordan is another country dedicated to including and implementing NBS as part of their NDCs. Jordan’s vision for NBS is centered around achieving sustainable, healthy, and resilient ecosystems in the future while considering climate change threats and other stressors. The two main pathways that NBS are implemented in Jordan are through agriculture and food security as well as biodiversity and protected areas.
Jordan is afforesting 25 percent of barren forest areas in the rain belt, supporting environmentally friendly agriculture designs, establishing and adopting incentive programs for sustainable range management, and improving soil water storage to maximize plant water availability. The NDC Partnership connects Jordan to implementing partners to support project needs related to establishing and adopting incentive programs for sustainable range management, animal production, and vulnerable communities and farmers. Additionally, Jordan reviews their National Protected Areas, identifies indicator species, monitors climate change’s impact on key species, and conserves and restores sea grass, along with other coastal ecosystems, for natural carbon sequestration.
Although NBS are embedded in the country’s action plans and NDC, NBS are not institutionalized. Jordan is working to review and analyze national strategies and targets to include NBS. The limitation of knowledge and awareness around NBS, political will, and available funds are significant obstacles Jordan is committed to overcoming. Considering their experience, Jordan recommends that countries establish baseline information to help prioritize actions and mainstream NBS.
After an overview of the Partnership’s NBS requests and hearing directly from countries, we held a panel Q&A session to hear perspectives from our expert Partners from The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, GIZ, and the World Wildlife Fund. Four main takeaways can be drawn from the discussion.
First, it is necessary to take an integrated approach to NBS. Involving the government, local people, and the private sector—and noting the skills and resources they each provide—allows for collective action. Local communities and indigenous peoples need to be consulted and engaged as active contributors at every stage because they can offer insightful strategies for on-the-ground implementation.
Second, data and information gathering are necessary for effective NBS. For example, spatial planning helps determine where ecosystems are vulnerable and how the restoration of these ecosystems can help address climate change. Gathering country-specific data should be commonplace, not a one-time collection, in order to differentiate objectives and produce information to track, understand, and prioritize NBS.
Third, building on existing policies and strategies is a great starting point. Often, NBS can require the involvement of multiple ministries and stakeholders, which can be difficult. However, if successful, it presents an opportunity to mainstream climate action and ecosystem-based approaches that are sustainable in the long-term.
Lastly, it is imperative to monitor and understand the climate risks to NBS to ensure they can and continue to work. Climate change is undermining ecosystem services that humans rely on to reach adaptation and mitigation goals. For example, coral reefs are a principal NBS for protecting coasts, filtering water, and more, yet they are highly vulnerable to higher temperatures and ocean acidification occurring due to climate change. Managing future risks to ecosystems that hold current potential for NBS benefits must be prioritized.
There is still much to do to bring NBS into country work and utilize all the benefits they can provide. With these key takeaways and country insights, the NDC Partnership is optimistic that the presence of NBS in national climate action will continue to grow.
For more information on NBS, refer to our partners’ resources on the NDC Partnership’s Knowledge Portal. These resources include the World Wildlife Fund's Recommendations for Integrating Nature into NDCs; IUCN's Synthesis and Recommendations for Enhancing Climate Ambition and Action; UNDP's Toolkit for Mainstreaming Nature-Based Solutions into NDCs; Guide to Including Nature in Nationally Determined Contributions by Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, and others; and Guidelines for Blue Carbon and Nationally Determine Contributions by IUCN, Pew, Conservation International, and other partners.
Keep an eye out for future blogs by our expert partners to learn more about nature-based solutions and their role and potential in NDC implementation.
This blog was authored by Catherine Li of the NDC Partnership Support Unit. We are grateful for the substantial contributions of Aria St. Louis (Grenada), Ehab Eid (Jordan), Mathias Bertram (GIZ), Maggie Comstock (Conservation International), Margarita Gutierrez (the Nature Conservancy), Shaun Martin (World Wildlife Fund) and Talia Chorover (NDC Partnership Support Unit) in the development of this blog.