The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report that outlines recent developments on Nature-based Solutions (NbS), focusing on global, regional, and national commitments and concerns. Building on the recent multilaterally agreed definition of NbS, the report provides recommendations for governments, civil society, and the private sector to substantially scale up their use as NbS, it notes, are central to the achievement of the SDGs.

The report uses the definition of NbS agreed in 2022 by the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which reads: “nature-based solutions are actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems which address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being, ecosystem services, resilience and biodiversity benefits.”

To facilitate the understanding of the concept, the report distinguishes three elements of NbS: 1) NbS involve working with different types of ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, farmlands, and urban ecosystems; 2) NbS engage with ecosystems through ecosystem conservation, restoration, and management; and 3) solution-oriented, NbS address a range of social, economic, and environmental challenges, such as inequality, unemployment, disaster risk, land degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

The report highlights that challenges such as climate change mitigation “cannot be fully addressed without NbS playing a part.” In spite of growing recognition of the value of NbS, however, there are issues and concerns that need to be addressed, the report notes. These include ensuring that the design and implementation of NbS maintain environmental integrity and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs).

The report underscores that to turn commitments and expressions of support into action to realize the full potential of NbS, actors will need to:

  • Develop a common understanding of NbS and the benefits they can bring;
  • Fully and transparently address concerns and questions about the integrity of NbS;
  • Understand the potential synergies and trade-offs associated with NbS; and
  • Substantially scale up deployment and implementation of NbS.

To help build a common understanding of NbS, the report provides examples of tools and platforms for NbS, including: OPPLA – EU repository that brings together information on natural capital, ecosystem services, and NbS; PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet – an online platform containing examples of more than 1,100 “replicable solutions” across a range of conservation and sustainable development topics; and Nature-based Solutions Initiative website that shares information from “an interdisciplinary programme of research, education and policy advice” to help “enhance understanding of the potential of Nature-based Solutions to address multiple global challenges and support their sustainable implementation worldwide.”

Calling for integrated approaches to implementation, the report recommends: embedding NbS in policies and programmes across sectors, including detailed targets and actions; linking policies for NbS to financing strategies that secure and increase funding for NbS; and better integrating NbS into public budgets and facilitating the flow of private finance into NbS with appropriate policies and instruments.

To promote appropriate safeguards, standards, and guidelines for NbS, the report urges consistency in their application, regardless of the source of financing, and calls for a comprehensive review of the standards and safeguards available, supported by robust monitoring of social and environmental outcomes.

Among the specific steps the report recommends to enable locally led actions on NbS are: recognizing and protecting rights to land, resources, and decision making; establishing and expanding financial mechanisms to support locally led NbS actions; and rolling out targeted capacity building and support networks for locally led NbS.

The report was issued in October 2022, in advance of the UN Biodiversity Conference in December. [Publication: Nature-based Solutions: Opportunities and Challenges for Scaling Up] [Report Summary] [Publication Landing Page] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on State of Finance for Nature 2022 Report]