Nature is our greatest ally in the fight against climate change

Professor Nathalie Seddon discusses the launch of her new Nature-based Solutions Initiative, which took place at the Adaptation Futures 2018 Conference, in Cape Town last week. Through policy advice and advocacy, the interdisciplinary, research-led programme aims to increase the use of natural solutions in the fight against climate change.

Climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty are inextricably linked. Not only do communities from the poorest nations suffer the worst effects of climate change, they also experience the highest rates of loss and damage to their natural ecosystems. However, nature is our best line of defence against harmful environmental change. In particular, it is becoming increasingly clear that the protection and restoration of nature can be the most cost-effective way of dealing with both the causes and consequences of climate change.

For example, one recent study indicates we could achieve a 30-40% reduction in CO2 emissions by restoring natural habitats across the globe; while another shows how natural coastal habitats have protected millions of dollars’ worth of property during recent hurricanes in America

In other words, there is growing evidence that nature-based solutions not only help to slow warming, but shield us from the impacts of change and protect the ecosystems on which our health, wealth and wellbeing so fundamentally depends.

Despite this, nature-based solutions are not being implemented across the globe, and they receive very little funding. There are three major reasons for this. First, evidence for the benefits of nature in a changing world is very scattered. Second, there is a lack of knowledge exchange between scientists, policy makers and practitioners: too much ecosystem science is done in isolation from the end-users, and too many adaptation policy decisions are made without considering the science. And third, more broadly, there is a general lack of appreciation in business and government of our fundamental dependency on nature, especially in a warming world.

To address these issues, alongside partners from the conservation and development sectors, we have co-created a new interdisciplinary programme of research, research translation, policy advice and advocacy called the Nature-based Solutions Initiative.

The initiative was launched last week at the Adaptation Futures 2018 conference in Cape Town, which is the largest annual gathering of researchers, practitioners and policy makers looking for long-term sustainable solutions to the impacts of climate change.

Our presentation included the release of a new interactive online science to a policy platform, which makes information about climate change adaptation planning across the globe openly available, easy and interesting to explore.

The platform includes country by country details of who is doing what, in terms of incorporating nature-based solutions into their adaptation plans, and is linked to an extensive database of scientific evidence for the effectiveness of such approaches.

This initial version showcases adaptation plans in the climate pledges of all signatories of the Paris Agreement, and highlights the prominence of Nature-based Solutions to climate change hazards. Through this work we aim to facilitate the global stock-take of the Paris Agreement and provide a baseline against which changes in ambition for Nature-based Solutions to climate change adaptation can be monitored and increased.

By helping decision makers and practitioners access and understand evidence for the effectiveness of nature-based approaches to dealing with the impacts of climate change, our aim is  to tackle the twin challenges of conserving biodiversity and building socio-ecological resilience in a warming world.


What are nature-based solutions to climate change?