Nature-based solutions use natural resources and systems to revolutionise the environmental challenges we face today and in the future. These challenges include climate change, habitat loss, water scarcity and biodiversity loss. Nature-based solutions work by imitating natural processes and working with nature to create sustainable and resilient outcomes. For example, planting trees to restore ecosystems and habitats or using renewable energy. Nature-based solutions are absolutely essential to the environment because they help restore and preserve Earth’s natural environment and ecosystems while simultaneously providing benefits to people. The benefits are endless. Nature-based solutions result in thriving ecosystems, clean air and water, support biodiversity, enhance local well-being, build resilient communities and can even mitigate the effects of climate change.
These solutions are essential for the environment because they help to restore and protect natural ecosystems, which provide numerous benefits to people and the planet. For example, healthy ecosystems provide clean air and water, support biodiversity, and help regulate the Earth's climate. Nature-based solutions can also help to build more resilient communities, protect against natural disasters, and enhance human well-being.
Nature-based solutions are unique from other solutions in multiple ways. Traditional engineering solutions that we have constantly used in the past typically use manufactured materials such as technology to solve problems. However, nature-based solutions focus on using natural processes to achieve the same outcomes.
The reliance on natural resources such as soil, water and sunlight is renewable and constantly replenished, meaning it causes less harm, is more sustainable and cost-efficient! Alternatively, traditional solutions usually rely on non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels which are expensive but, more importantly, extremely damaging to the environment.
Yet another notable difference is that nature-based solutions provide additional benefits beyond the core problem. For example, forest restoration projects reap endless benefits beyond creating a forest. They help filter water, increase air quality, provide aesthetic scenery for recreational activities, and provide wildlife habitat. Traditional solutions tend to have more focused benefits without considering the broader impacts on the environment and society in the long term.
Nature-based solutions offer a holistic and sustainable answer to global and local issues that benefit people and the planet.
Nature-based solutions are becoming more common all around the world. Here are some examples of successful global solutions implemented:
According to the World Bank "Estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed until 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement."
The solutions reduce damaging greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere by implementing resources that do not emit these harmful substances. Resulting in a reduced reliance on fossil fuels and an increased carbon sequestration rate. Here are a few examples of how the solutions reduce climate change effects:
Forest conservation and restoration: everyone knows that forests are almost a magical solution to the climate crisis. Through their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they are able to store carbon and thus mitigate the global warming caused by human activity. We must continue to cease deforestation and increase reforestation efforts.
Agroforestry: Agroforestry is where trees are planted and implemented into agricultural systems and farmlands. This helps to increase carbon storage in soil and crops. It also increases resilience to the effects of climate change by protecting land from droughts and flooding.
Soil conservation and restoration: Soil practices include cover cropping, conservation tillage and agroforestry, increase soil carbon sequestration abilities and reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Wetland restoration: Restoring wetlands means increasing the efficiency of a major carbon sink which can sequester carbon for centuries.
Green infrastructure: Urban forests, green roofs, and rain gardens can help reduce energy consumption and urban heat effect while adding to the aesthetic value of buildings and cities.
Renewable energy: the increase in renewable energy means less reliance on fossil fuels which minimises harmful impacts on natural ecosystems and reduces GHG emissions.
Nature-based solutions harvest countless benefits for local communities and economies.
Enhanced health and well-being: Nature-based solutions often result in green spaces, urban forests, and regenerated forests that improve physical and mental health by opening up new opportunities for recreational activity, stress reduction, improved air quality and increased aesthetic surroundings.
Increased tourism: solutions such as ecotourism, coral reef restoration, and wildlife conservation attract tourists and local visitors to locations for their beauty and thus provide economic opportunities.
Improved food security: Solutions such as agroforestry and other sustainable land uses improve soil and water quality, enhance crop yields and thus provide increased income for farmers.
Reduced energy cost: some solutions, such as green infrastructure, urban forests, and green roofs, can provide shaded and cooling environments to urban settings, which results in reduced energy consumption and costs.
Flood protection: Wetland restoration can protect communities from damage and other climate change impacts by reducing the risk of flooding
Increased property value: more aesthetic surroundings increase the value of properties and further stimulate the economy.
Sustainable livelihood: Nature-based solutions open up opportunities for selling forest products, renewable energy products and more. This creates a sustainable livelihood for communities by generating increased demand and income.
"Investing in nature can contribute to recovery efforts by creating jobs, targeting the poorest communities, and building long-term resilience." - IUCN
As with all things, nature-based solutions come with challenges, mainly associated with their implementation.
Funding and resources: nature-based solutions can be costly as they require significant investments and sometimes ongoing maintenance. To cope with this challenge, governments and stakeholders must find innovative financing sources such as partnerships, bonds, subsidies and investments to fund the solutions.
Lack of awareness: Most of the population is unlikely to be aware of the endless benefits and possibilities that nature-based solutions bring. Communities may also lack the technical knowledge required to implement the solutions effectively. Substantial education and awareness must be developed through campaigns to overcome these challenges. These campaigns should emphasise and highlight the benefits and provide training to populations.
Policy and regulatory barriers: Most existing policies and regulations may not support establishing nature-based solutions. Policymakers must develop new regulations to support and encourage the implementation of nature-based solutions.
Limited access to equipment: Many communities, especially in third-world countries, lack the technology and equipment required to implement nature-based solutions.
Resistance to change: When large populations are accustomed to traditional solutions, it can act as a barrier to implementing a new and improved solution.
People are at the heart of nature-based solutions; therefore, we must work to promote them. We can help to do this by
Supporting policy changes: we can advocate for good policy changes that support nature-based solutions at all scales and levels.
Invest in solutions: Invest in nature-based solutions, such as reforestation projects, to support and help provide financial returns to those responsible.
Adopt sustainable practices: Everyone should be changing their habits and traditional mindsets to more sustainable approaches. Such habits include reducing energy and water consumption and purchasing sustainable products from sustainable businesses. This way, we can contribute to the transition to a more sustainable future.
Participate in initiatives: we should go beyond supporting and start participating in nature-based solutions.
Raise awareness: raising awareness about the endless benefits of nature-based solutions helps inform others of the movement. We can share information on social media and start educating others.
The United Nations SDGs rely heavily on nature-based solutions. For example,
SDG 13: Climate action: Nature-based solutions mitigate climate change through their ability to sequester carbon, reduce the use of GHG emission practices and enhance ecosystem health.
SDG 14: Life Below Water: Nature-based solutions such as coral reef conservation work to protect marine ecosystems and support biodiversity underwater.
SDG 15: Life on Land: Nature-based solutions such as reforestation preserve and restore ecosystems on land and promote their biodiversity.
Combining environmentally friendly technologies with conventional engineering approaches will have the biggest impact.
Nature-based solutions address various challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss and water scarcity. We can promote sustainability and climate change resilience by supporting these solutions and reap social benefits. Businesses and individuals alike should adopt comprehensive strategies that use both conventional and natural solutions. We must consider local circumstances, stakeholder perspectives and long-term sustainability in such strategies. It is also important for businesses and individuals to go above and beyond and participate in projects to encourage cooperation and morale.
The Emissions Trading Scheme is New Zealand's key tool for reducing harmful atmospheric gas levels to meet international climate change response goals. Find out how and why.
Learn about carbon sequestration rates under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and their Carbon Credit earning potential, per hectare.
The New Zealand carbon market is a big and relatively new space. This blog will cover the NZ ETS, market functions, carbon credits, and the different participant interactions in the NZ carbon market.