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Nature-based solutions in action: Lessons from the frontline - Harnessing nature to address the triple emergency of poverty, climate change and biodiversity loss

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The world is facing a triple emergency of climate change, nature loss, and rising poverty and inequality. These interdependent emergencies do not just represent three pressing challenges to humanity; they are interconnected in their causes and consequences, but therefore also in their solutions.

As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates what was already a ‘triple emergency’, we urgently need holistic approaches and solutions that work on these interdependencies.

The world has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally shift the course of human development to secure a lasting, prosperous, safe and just future for all. 2021 offers a potential turning point. This year, leaders will make crucial decisions across global processes, addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development. We need to see greater ambition to act at this year’s many major international meetings, including the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, Scotland; the UN Food Systems Summit in Rome, Italy; the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15 of the CBD) planned for Kunming, China; the UN General Assembly, as well as other major meetings. The decisions made this year will shape the next decade of action for climate, nature and people.

Decision makers across government, business and communities are increasingly recognising that naturebased solutions (NbS) can contribute to addressing the crises. Defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits , high quality NbS involve working with, through, and for nature, people and climate. NbS offer a cost-effective approach that can deliver multiple benefits when done well.

NbS now regularly feature in international and national policies and plans, world leaders are increasingly making NbS commitments, and experts across many fields are highlighting the approach’s credibility. Many have also raised concerns, particularly about the potential for NbS to be used by businesses or nations to replace or delay the deep decarbonisation of our economies that we know is urgently needed; that the approach could be seen as the commoditisation of nature; and that without adequate standards and safeguards activities done in the name of NbS could harm people and nature. So how do we use the positive commitments to NbS to drive action that works for people, nature and climate? This report is intended to present real-life evidence of how high quality NbS can deliver positive outcomes for climate, nature and people.
It highlights common success factors to ensure that NbS are implemented well for the benefit of people, nature and climate.

The 13 case studies in this report have been contributed by environment, development and local community organisations. They show NbS in action in a wide range of contexts, from a Farmers’ Seed Network in China that supports agroecology by conserving traditional seeds, to large-scale watershed management in glacial mountain ecosystems in Peru and managing flood risk in the UK.