Nature-based solutions and climate change

What are nature-based solutions?

Nature-based solutions are actions that protect, sustainably manage, or restore natural ecosystems in order to effectively and adaptively address societal challenges such as climate change, human health, food and water security, and disaster risk reduction while also providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. Flooding in coastal areas, for example, is a common problem caused by storm surges and coastal erosion. This problem, which has traditionally been addressed with manmade (grey) infrastructure such as sea walls or dikes, can also be addressed by actions that take advantage of ecosystem services such as tree planting. Planting mangrove trees, which thrive in coastal areas, reduce the impact of storms on human lives and economic assets while also providing habitat for fish, birds, and other plants supporting biodiversity.

Do nature-based solutions help fight climate change?

Estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed until 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement. How can this be accomplished? Trees will absorb carbon if they are planted. For example, restoring native forest along river banks to prevent landslides can also serve as a carbon sink. Another example is climate-smart agriculture, which allows farmers to retain more carbon in their fields while growing crops. Another way to benefit from nature-based solutions is to reduce deforestation. For example, paying farmers not to cut down the forest preserves ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, the provision of clean drinking water, and the reduction of river sedimentation downstream.

Nature-based solutions are also important in climate change adaptation and community resilience building. The World Bank employs several nature-based solutions to help manage disaster risk and reduce the occurrence and impact of flooding, mudslides, and other disasters. They are a low-cost way to combat climate change while also addressing biodiversity and land degradation. You can deal with multiple issues at once.
However, not everything you plant will automatically become a nature-based solution that contributes to biodiversity; for example, planting trees that are not native to the region and are toxic to local animals will not result in biodiversity benefits.

Estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed until 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Where can I find World Bank projects that incorporate nature-based solutions?
The World Bank’s nature-based solutions portfolio included 70 projects in FY20, with many focusing on water and disaster risk management. We would like to see more projects that incorporate nature-based solutions into other topic areas. We have been rolling out training for World Bank staff in this regard, with the goal of increasing country-level support. The World Bank is committed to addressing the world’s two intersecting global crises: the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis.

Let me give you a few examples: In Burundi, forests have been cleared and crops grown on steep hillsides with no erosion control. As a result, the country has seen an increase in the frequency of landslides and floods, which have been exacerbated by the torrential rains and droughts associated with climate change. We’re funding a project that will build nearly 8,000 hectares of hillside terraces with vegetation at critical points to control soil erosion, increase soil moisture, and reduce runoff. Farmers are planting tree crops, soil-stabilizing grasses, and fodder crops to protect topsoil and increase agricultural productivity.

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