What are nature-based solutions?
Nature-based solutions harness the power of nature to boost natural ecosystems, biodiversity and human well-being to address major societal issues, including climate change.
These solutions cover a broad range of actions to protect, restore or sustainably manage landscapes, seascapes, watersheds and urban areas so they can tackle challenges such as food and water security, climate change, disaster risks and human health. Examples include restoring wetlands to buffer local communities from flood waters, or conserving mangrove forests that provide nurseries for fish and protect nearby homes against storm damage. From protecting salt marshes to restoring forest habitats, nature-based solutions are already in operation across the world.
Indigenous peoples and local communities have used nature-based solutions for milenia. It is crucial that all solutions are people-centered, led by communities and draw from traditional and local knowledge. Nature-based solutions must be inclusive, transparent, developed with respect to land rights and respect to local people’s views and the benefits should be equally distributed.
Defining nature-based solutions
In 2022, in a landmark decision, the United Nations Environment Assembly formally recognized nature-based solutions and defined them as “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 and resilience and biodiversity benefits”. This was the first time that the concept was discussed and agreed by governments in a multilateral forum.
This definition builds upon the IUCN definition of nature-based solutions.
Why do we need nature-based solutions?
Our planet is facing a triple global challenge of biodiversity loss, climate change and equitable development. Around a million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction - more than ever before in human history. And the climate emergency is exposing millions of people to extreme heat waves, threatening food and water supplies, and could leave a billion people affected by sea-level rise within decades, among several other impacts.
At the same time, half of the world's GDP depends on the efficient and sustainable use of natural assets and its services in sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism.
Nature-based solutions are an opportunity to address these problems and ensure a nature positive future by providing essential services such as carbon storage, ensuring food and water supplies and buffering against the impacts of a warming world.
Challenges nature-based solutions can help solve
- Climate change adaptation & disaster risk reduction: Helping people and nature adapt to a warming world by preventing new and reducing existing climate hazards and strengthening resilience to future risks.
- Human health: Benefiting mental and physical wellbeing and reducing the transfer of diseases caused by the destruction of habitats or the consumption and commercialization of wildlife.
- Food security: Ensuring people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
- Water security: Providing sustainable access to adequate, quality water to sustain livelihoods, human well-being, development, protect against disasters and preserve ecosystems.
- Climate change mitigation: Nature plays an important role in the global climate system. When operating optimally, nature-based solutions can reduce the need to use untested methods to capture and store carbon.
What is WWF doing?
WWF works globally on promoting nature-based solutions and prioritizing actions that benefit people, nature and climate. We develop measurable, people-centered initiatives across the world that harness nature-based solutions and emphasize the benefits of protecting and restoring nature to businesses, cities, communities and governments.
We are working to develop science-based guidance for field-based interventions, partnering with initiatives that boost them, and advocating for policy changes and the increased inclusion of nature-based solutions in countries’ climate pledges. We are calling for nature-based solutions to be part of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Framework and working to strengthen the alignment between climate and nature conventions.
We are advocating for nature-based solutions to be carefully planned, designed and implemented to ensure the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities are respected, and that the benefits are shared fairly. As members of the international committee for the IUCN’s Global Standard of Nature-based Solutions, we encourage its use for designing, upscaling and verifying an intervention which covers the governance of nature-based solutions and safeguards for nature and people.
Our interactive map shares a selection of these projects, and explains how they are working to address five key societal challenges: climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, food security, water security and human health.
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