In the face of ever-increasing climate change, Europe faces an urgent need to adapt to dynamic environmental conditions. In response to these challenges, the European Union took a decisive step in 2021 by developing and implementing a Climate Adaptation Strategy. This comprehensive procedure underscores the special importance of investing in Nature-Based Solutions (NBS).
A recent briefing by the European Environment Agency (EEA) Scaling up nature-based solutions for climate resilience and nature restoration , published on November 16, assesses the current state of adaptation projects in the context of climate change. It also analyzes how these initiatives can contribute to the resilience of society and the protection of biodiversity. It also sheds light on key aspects and challenges of implementing and scaling NBS, highlighting their importance in building a sustainable and resilient future for Europe in the face of a changing climate.
What are NBS?
Nature-based solutions are an innovative approach to solving a range of social challenges that are exacerbated by climate change and environmental degradation. The NBS covers a wide range of activities, such as restoring wetlands in flood-prone areas and creating green infrastructure in cities, and aims to both increase community resilience and protect biodiversity. Their main goal is to confront issues such as climate change, natural disaster risk, food and water security, and human health protection.
A key advantage of nature-based solutions is their ability to simultaneously benefit both human well-being and biodiversity. By strengthening ecosystem services such as erosion control, drought and flood prevention, carbon absorption, and fire prevention, NBS contributes to environmental and social resilience. In urban environments, additional benefits include improved air quality and reduced noise pollution, resulting in a better quality of life for residents.
Examples of successful NBS initiatives
- Green Roofs in Hamburg: Hamburg is an example of a city that is successfully implementing green roofs, helping to reduce the urban heat island effect and manage rainwater more effectively. This project demonstrates how innovative solutions can be incorporated into urban infrastructure, benefiting both the environment and residents.
- Restoration of the Tullstorpsån River in Sweden: This project involves wetland restoration and catchment management, demonstrating high potential for scaling in regions with similar climate challenges. This is an example that shows how local initiatives can contribute to improving water quality, increasing biodiversity and protecting against extreme weather events.
- Paludiculture in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: This project involves the productive use of wet and rewetted peatlands to reduceCO2 emissions. This is an innovative approach to managing degraded peatland ecosystems that simultaneously contributes to climate protection and biodiversity enhancement.
NBS often take the form of small-scale projects that are initiated and led by local stakeholders, tailored to the specific environmental, social, economic, political and cultural conditions of an area. Due to their unique nature, replication of these projects in other contexts often requires significant modifications.
The EEA in notes that there is currently limited experience in scaling NBS in Europe. The lack of evaluation and monitoring standards is a major obstacle to replicating these projects on a wider scale. To achieve the EU’s climate change adaptation and nature restoration policy goals, it is necessary to accelerate and expand the implementation of NBS projects, which requires an integrated approach that takes into account a variety of environmental, social and economic aspects.
Strategies for effective implementation
- Development of standards and methodologies: The development of evaluation and monitoring standards will help evaluate the effectiveness of the NBS and facilitate their replication in other areas.
- Cooperation and knowledge sharing: International cooperation and knowledge sharing are key to developing effective NBS strategies. Sharing knowledge and best practices can accelerate the development and implementation of these solutions.
- Multi-Party Involvement: Successful implementation of the NBS requires cooperation among governments, NGOs, the private sector and local communities. Bringing together different perspectives and needs is crucial to the success of these projects.
- Financial incentives: Providing adequate financing and incentives for NBS projects is essential to their success. This can include subsidies, tax breaks, as well as innovative financing models such as green bonds or public-private partnerships.
- Education and public awareness: Raising awareness of the benefits of NBS is key to its acceptance and implementation. Education and information campaigns can increase public understanding and support for these initiatives.
The many advantages of nature-based solutions are becoming increasingly clear, however, this approach is still relatively new. Lack of in-depth knowledge of these methods and uncertainty about the expected results can be an obstacle to their wider use. Social and economic aspects, as well as cost issues, play an important role, as they are key to gaining stakeholder support and attracting private investment.