Nature-based solutions (NbS) involve working with nature to address societal challenges, providing benefits for both human well-being and biodiversity. Specifically they are actions that involve the protection, restoration or management of natural and semi-natural ecosystems; the sustainable management of aquatic systems and working lands such as croplands or timberlands; or the creation of novel ecosystems in and around cities. They are actions that are underpinned biodiversity and are designed and implemented with the full engagement and consent of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.
The role of nature-based solutions (NbS) in tackling the climate and nature crises has gained the world’s attention, but not everything that is said to be called NbS really is.
To help enable large-scale investment in NbS and address the issues of greenwashing and poorly-planned projects is needed to get the message right’ on NbS.
Nature-based solutions must therefore benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.
Solutions that Protect Ecosystems
In general, reducing emissions by preventing the loss or degradation of natural ecosystems is more cost-effective and immediate than restoring carbon to damaged ecosystems. This is consistent with a mitigation hierarchy approach to impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services, which indicates that impacts should first be avoided; when that is not possible, they should be minimized; and when they do occur, restoration should take place. If impacts remain, they should be offset by equivalent action elsewhere. All else being equal, it follows that the first priority is to Protect ecosystems from conversion, the second step is to tackle the drivers of ecosystem degradation, and the third is to Restore ecosystems.
Projects that aim slowing the global deforestation rate
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) can improve lives, protect forests and biodiversity, and mitigate climate change. Forests serve as natural storage for carbon, and deforestation is the second leading cause of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Furthermore, more than one billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and tropical primary forests are particularly high in terrestrial biodiversity.
Aims of a comprehensive REDD+ approach include: involving local communities; building the capacity of the most vulnerable and rural poor; conducting national land-use planning; addressing gender balance in decision-making about land use and allocation; and engaging others such as the private sector in sustainable initiatives.
Through global policy instruments that include the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and projects at national and landscape levels, IUCN works with diverse stakeholders and engages vulnerable communities to realise the full potential of REDD+ for forests, people, and climate change mitigation. Related initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million ha of forests by 2020, and 350 million ha by 2030, also help to achieve many of the same benefits, including improvements to livelihoods, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration.
Real emissions reductions along with improved livelihoods and strengthened community rights determine the success of REDD+ interventions. Steps towards this success include: broad participation in assessing the causes of deforestation and degradation; analysation of the impacts of REDD+ on the livelihoods of forest communities with the definitions and monitoring of social baselines as indicators of these impacts; and strengthened participation of vulnerable groups in defining REDD+ activities. Particular importance is given to the interests of women, indigenous peoples and other local communities – groups that are often marginalised in the planning of outcomes that closely affect them.
Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes. FLR is more than just planting trees – it is restoring a whole landscape to meet present and future needs and to offer multiple benefits and land uses over time.
According to a global assessment of restoration potential, there are more than two billion hectares of deforested and degraded land around the world where opportunities for some type of restoration intervention may be realised. Restoring forests and forest landscapes is an important step in regaining the health and functionality of these ecosystems.