Nature-based Solutions for Climate Resilience

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  • Published on March 4, 2021

Catherine Jadot, PhD Biodiversity and Climate Change Expert | Nature based Solutions Practitioner | Resilience and Adaptation in Coastal Environments | Technical Assistance | Capacity Building

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Nature-based Solutions (NbS) has become a buzz term recently but it is actually something we have been doing for a very long time. 

When implementing Nature-based Solutions, we look at a problem we have and how nature can help us solve this problem. The focus is on “us”. NbS have a real emphasis on societal challenges that we face today like flooding, water scarcity, or soil erosion. 

NbS covers a range of ecosystem-related approaches to address societal challenges. NbS refer to activities associated with the protection, management, enhancement, and restoration of natural capital to develop climate-resilient infrastructure.

For example, instead of building a seawall or a dam to protect from climate risks, Nature-based solutions could include restoring and conserving coral reefs and mangrove belts. They will act as first line of defense and will dissipate up to 95% of wave energy, increasing the resilience to coastal flooding and sea-level rise. Nature is an essential tool for addressing the threats to climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development. 

NbS are often cheaper than traditional solutions. Cheaper to install and in the long run. Indeed, as a living system, they can become self-sustaining over time reducing the costs of maintenance. 

Nature based Solutions

The picture was taken in 2014 when I was surveying one of our NbS projects in the Bahamas. We deployed one of the largest artificial reefs in the Bahamas to protect against shore erosion. Across the Caribbean, NbS could play a significant role in ensuring climate resilience, and would bring substantial additional co-benefits including: improved management of natural capital; maintaining or enhancing greenhouse gas sinks; and a range of other regulating, supporting, provisioning, and cultural ecosystem services.

So why isn’t it implemented more often? 

The IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) has identified several barriers.

🐠 For example, the management of nature and ecosystem services typically resides in the Ministry of Environment, while decisions concerning infrastructure tend to be made in Ministries of Planning and Finance. This can mean that options such as NbS aren’t always considered in early-stage planning and procurement processes for infrastructure.

➡️ Mainstreaming NbS – We need to raise awareness of NbS and enhance capacity to integrate them into decision-making.

🐠 Another barrier lies in the fact the project developers might not be aware of these solutions and/or how to apply them. They often require a very different skillset that goes beyond what project developers are usually trained for.

➡️ Increase local capacity to design and implement NbS projects through the provision of tools and creation of opportunities to develop technical skillsets.  

🐠 Project financers are, as yet, unlikely to have experience financing NbS projects and therefore would be unfamiliar with the approaches and the associated risks. So NbS projects will not be developed and financers will rarely lend or invest without a clear business case and proof of concept setting out the costs, benefits, and risk profiles. 

➡️ Governments, private sector, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), academic institutions, and NGOs should prioritize developing the business case to drive demand for financial products that can support NbS.  

🐠 There are just not enough financial instruments to finance and scale NbS investment. As with other innovations, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, it can take decades for markets to mature, which presents a barrier for project developers to access financing. 

➡️ Development Banks have an important role to play in growing the market for NbS. There is a need to develop and deploy innovative instruments to finance and refinance NbS.

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Catherine provides turnkey solutions to environmental challenges and strategic sustainability consulting to help communities and governments in small island nations become more resilient and less vulnerable to our changing environment. 

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