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The case for using nature-based solutions

Natural ecosystems are our first line of defence against the impacts of climate change. There are many examples of how nature helps humanity.
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ELINA VÄÄNÄNEN: Natural ecosystems are humanity’s first line of defence against the mounting impacts of climate change. There are many examples of how nature helps humans to cope with the impacts of climate change. For example, forests store and regulate water. These are services that will become even more important as rainfall becomes more unpredictable. Wetlands can help soak up potentially deadly floods and ensure supply of water to farmers and cities in times of drought. However, climate change is accelerating the loss of natural assets everywhere. Critical ecosystems are already at a breaking point. For example, one in four species is facing extinction. And about a quarter of all ice-free land is now subject to degradation.
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Nature’s services will become even more valuable as global temperatures climb. But beyond global average temperature rises of 1.5 or 2 degrees, we may reach tipping points. For example, coral reefs are projected to decline by up to 99% at 2 degrees of warming. This is why the world needs to take urgent action to safeguard the key services that ecosystems provide. There is a strong case for using Nature-based Solutions, or NbS, to address climate risks. First of all, Nature-based Solutions often work for both adaptation and mitigation. For example, natural solutions like forest restoration could provide a third of the climate mitigation needed to keep warming below 2 degrees.
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Second, Nature-based Solutions to addressing climate impacts can be more cost effective than engineered approaches. Restoring the mangroves that protect coastal communities from storms is two to five times cheaper than building structures like sea walls. Thirdly, there are many other benefits from using NbS. They can contribute to better water quality, create jobs, and improve health and biodiversity conservation. To use the example of mangroves, they contribute approximately $40 to $50 billion per year in non-market benefits associated with fisheries, forestry, and recreation. To deliver on adaptation and on co-benefits, Nature-based Solutions often work best at broader scales, such as in restoring entire watersheds or along coastlines. At the moment, NbS are mostly limited to small-scale pilot projects.
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Despite the powerful case for working with nature to reduce climate risks, the world has barely begun to realise this potential. Few governments have adopted these approaches widely. And only 3% of nearly 2,000 companies reported using natural ecosystems as part of their climate adaptation strategies. But why is this the case? Many barriers hinder greater take-up of these solutions by countries, cities, and businesses. These include a lack of awareness of the critical role of natural assets in underpinning social and economic resilience and a lack of accessible funds to invest in Nature-based Solutions. At times, the existing policies and regulations prevent adoption of less traditional solutions like Nature-based Solutions. To take real advantage of NbS, the world needs to take three critical steps.
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Firstly, we need to raise understanding of the value of nature for climate adaptation. This requires governments and companies to assess natural assets for their potential to support adaptation. Second, we need to embed Nature-based Solutions into adaptation planning and policy. For example, governments and companies can develop high-level spatial plans to identify opportunities for NbS implementation at larger scales. Thirdly, we need to increase investment in Nature-based Solutions. National and local governments can play a key role in mobilising greater private sector financing. These actions can help the world harness Nature-based Solutions for adaptation. If we continue with business as usual, we risk losing the essential services that nature provides.

Natural ecosystems are humanity’s first line of defence against the mounting impacts of climate change. There are many examples of how nature helps humans to cope with the impacts of climate change. Nature’s services will become even more valuable as global temperatures climb. In this video Elina Väänänen from the Global Center on Adaptation goes into this.

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Making Climate Adaptation Happen: Governing Transformation Strategies for Climate Change

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