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Q&A: Nature Based Solutions

Q&A: Nature Based Solutions 2 December 2021

Q&A: Can ‘nature–based solutions’ help address climate change? (via CarbonBrief)

In recent years, the use of nature and natural ecosystems to mitigate and adapt to climate change has come to the forefront of discussions around meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

These so–called “nature–based solutions” are key to many countries’ and companies’ plans to achieve net–zero in the coming decades. 

Nature–based solutions also featured more prominently than before at the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last month. The term briefly made an appearance in a draft of what became the Glasgow Climate Pact and, following UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s mantra of “coal, cars, cash and trees”, countries at the summit made several headline–grabbing pledges aimed at halting deforestation.

But these “nature–based solutions” are not without their critics. Some argue that the very concept of nature as a tool reduces and obscures its inherent value. Others reject the term and warn that its vagueness leaves it open to deliberate misuse. 

In this explainer, Carbon Brief examines the history of the term “nature–based solutions”, the debates surrounding their effectiveness and the place they currently hold in global climate negotiations.

What is the origin of the term ‘nature–based solutions’?

The term “nature–based solutions” was coined by the World Bank in 2008 and adopted that same year by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN defines nature–based solutions as:

“Actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, to provide both human well–being and biodiversity benefits. They are underpinned by benefits that flow from healthy ecosystems and target major challenges like climate change, disaster risk reduction, food and water security, health and are critical to economic development.”

In its original usage, the term predominantly referred to ways of working with nature for the purposes of climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation. It is only “quite recently” that the discussion around nature–based solutions has shifted more towards using them to mitigate climate change, says Prof Nathalie Seddon, the director of the Nature–based Solutions Initiative at the University of Oxford. 

Read the full story on Carbon Brief here.