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Nature-based solutions: Benefits and opportunities

The benefits and opportunities achievable using Nature-based solutions (NBS) to address global and societal challenges have never been more relevant, important or urgently needed than now.

Climate Change and Environment

Civilisations throughout the ages and across the planet have attempted to harness and utilise the power of nature, often with some success (in the short- or long-term) but also in ways that have caused great social, economic and environmental harm. However, human-induced global warming, climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss – caused by pollution, lost or damaged natural habitats and urban sprawl – have all placed greater emphasis still on how our societies modify ecosystems, how we access their benefits or utilise their services, and how we protect ourselves from natural threats and disasters. The European Commission defines NBS as “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience; such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.” It further emphasises that “nature-based solutions must benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.” Urban and rural communities alike rely heavily on ‘conventional’ infrastructures and systems for water supply, heating, lighting, drainage, cooling and other services such as places to meet or relax. The evidence is that these older systems and technologies may no longer be fit for purpose in the light of global changes whose impacts are being felt with increasing severity and frequency. The urgency of these issues is accompanied by the need for rapid changes to deeply embedded and often highly valuable cultural heritage, legal frameworks, governance systems and professional and personal norms which have developed gradually, i.e. over millennia. The networks and systems that have been built up are central to the ways in which we make agreements and handle disputes between people, communities, cities, regions and countries, or even continents. The scope for making mistakes is therefore huge, but the opportunities are also great, particularly if we innovate together and learn from one another. NBS therefore offer a major chance for innovation, with possibilities to deliver lasting and tangible benefits across different social groups, in a range of environmental, economic and cultural settings, and in sharp contrast with the ways in which conventional, ‘traditional’ or ‘grey’ solutions are designed, constructed and managed over time. However, many NBS remain relatively novel solutions, presenting important challenges and unknowns in terms of their (co)design, operation, maintenance and how we organise their implementation. The CORDIS Results Pack on Nature Based Solutions feeds into ingoing discussions about how to improve the framework conditions for NBS at the EU policy level and support the growing European research and innovation community in the field. Source: Nature-based Solutions: State of the Art in EU-funded Projects’ (Wild et al. (Eds.). For background information, check the European Commission’s Research and Innovation website for the policy topic area on NBS. Key developments in the EC’s NBS research and innovation agenda are outlined in Faivre et al (2017). A further useful summary of key developments is available here following a recent workshop entitled ‘Mobilising up-scaling of NBS for climate change throughout 2020 and beyond’.

Keywords

Nature Based Solutions, NBS, urban, environment, innovation, Horizon 2020