Nature Hires: How nature-based solutions can power a green jobs recovery

Posted on October, 12 2020

A new report urges policymakers to urgently explore the potential of Nature-based Solutions, and seek to integrate them in their responses to COVID-19, writes Maikel Lieuw-Kie-Song from ILO and Vanessa Perez-Cirera from WWF.

(12 October, 2020) - The report, Nature Hires: How Nature-Based Solutions Can Power A Green Jobs Recovery, published today, confirms the potential of Nature-based Solutions to provide job-intense economic recovery while having a multiplier effect in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


As we entered 2020, the dual global crises of climate and nature loss were in the public eye as never before. Within weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic had triggered a third crisis, plunging countries around the world into recession as governments struggled to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and prevent health systems becoming overwhelmed.


That third crisis, and the economic disruption and loss of employment it has brought with it, is further increasing global inequality, and threatening prosperity around the world. It is also contributing to the first two crises, as efforts to address climate change are deprioritized, and as desperate communities lean more heavily on the natural systems on which they depend.


These natural systems play a vital role in supporting employment. Some 1.2 billion jobs in sectors such as farming, fisheries, forestry and tourism are dependent on the effective management and sustainability of healthy ecosystems. Half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product is, to a greater or lesser degree, dependent on nature. Stressing or destroying vital ecosystems will have enormous economic as well as environmental and social costs.


Nature-based Solutions offer an opportunity to create immediate “no harm” jobs, while at the same time supporting a transition to a greener and job-rich economy. They also enable better alignment and integration of agriculture and energy sectors with economic, employment, social, climate and biodiversity goals. Nature-based Solutions also provide a way to bridge the immense mental disconnect between residents of rural and urban areas. 


Yet obstacles and constraints to scaling and main streaming Nature-based Solutions remain and  conditions generated by the COVID-19 pandemic provide a unique opportunity to make much more rapid progress on the following enablers.  


Leveraging sustainable finance

Planned COVID-19 stimulus and social and economic recovery packages provide a huge and unique opportunity for increased financing of interventions that are based on or integrate Nature-based Solutions, especially because of their high job creation potential, as well as their ability to absorb workers from sectors that have been highly impacted by the pandemic. 


We believe that investments in economic and social COVID-19 recovery must be directed to Nature-based Solutions in areas where they are proven to be effective and to generate immediate employment and income opportunities. Examples include inland and coastal ecosystem restoration, agroforestry, urban forestry, community-based ecosystem management, integrated mangrove and fisheries farming systems, the design of marine reserves for improved medium and long-term productivity and ecosystem adaptation, amongst others. 


Creating a more conducive policy and regulatory environment

The current crisis has also created the space to introduce policies that were previously considered unfeasible. The unprecedented spending by many governments has already been noted. In the area of social protection, the expansion of social transfers and unemployment benefits are also unprecedented. It is becoming increasingly clear how the COVID-19 crisis is linked and further fuelled by the social and economic crises that preceded it, the policy space for deploying more integrated solutions to what are increasingly integrated crises has widened. 


We believe policymakers should promote diverse portfolios of nature-based income benefits to local and national economies. They should also ensure the wider adoption and localization of Nature-based Solutions standards such as the IUCN Global Standards for Nature-based Solutions and ILO Guidelines for a Just Transition.


Boosting cross-sectoral collaboration

COVID-19 has also demonstrated the interrelated nature of many of the challenges we face and has led to the increasing awareness that many problems cannot be solved within a single domain. This creates opportunities for enhanced collaboration between actors and stakeholders who previously tended to focus on a single domain such as the economy, the environment or social development. 


Nature-based Solutions are, by their nature, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral interventions and require, but also create, an imperative for cross-sectoral collaboration. That’s why we are recommending that policymakers encourage the use of water-related Nature-based Solutions approaches and encourage the use of landscape- or watershed-based approaches.


Improving the knowledge base

Improving the knowledge base underpinning Nature-based Solutions also presents an opportunity for COVID-19-related stimulus in Research and Development (R&D). Such increased investment in R&D will also stimulate job creation in this sector and generate knowledge to enable the wider adoption of these more sustainable solutions. 


As our governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to re-design stimulus packages that take advantage of opportunities for people, climate and nature. 


There have been promising signs but, in general, most spending at the national level, is still being directed towards conventional solutions, with limited job sustainability impact. 


We are confident that this week's meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank could open-up opportunities to work together towards wider adoption of Nature-based Solutions, steering us towards the sustained systemic change our countries and the planet require.


Maikel R. Lieuw-Kie-Song is ILO’s Technical Specialist, Employment Intensive Investment Programme.

Vanessa Perez Cirera is WWF’s Global Deputy Lead for Climate & Energy.

For further information contact: Mandy Jean Woods 
Nature Hires: A new report from WWF and ILO compiles international evidence on how Nature-based Solutions can drive a more sustainable, job-rich recovery.
© ILO / Mito Tuskamoto