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Nature-based Solutions: From Innovation to Common-use

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NBS2017 (Nature-based Solutions: From Innovation to Common-use)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2018-02-28

The environmental conference “Nature-based Solutions: From Innovation to Common-use” was held in Tallinn from 24 to 26 October 2017 and was part of the Presidency of the Estonian Republic of the Council of the European Union.
The conference hosted leading scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs from around the world who shared their experience on how nature-based innovation and eco-innovative technologies can be implemented in many areas of life.
It served as an important step in increasing the political visibility and popularizing nature-based solutions across Europe and will give input to the European Commission and other organizations to plan their future activities.
The goal of the conference was to bring together the nature-based solutions community, demonstrate best practices and give input to policies in development related to nature-based solutions.
Most of the work in this project was organizational. Different politicians, policy experts, scientists, stakeholder groups etc. were contacted and best speakers selected and contacted. As the conference intended to display the best of our current understanding of nature-based solutions, an open call for presentations was sent to universities, research institutions as well as ministries, policy creators and businesses.
The conference had a steering committee consisting of several local and international experts on nature-based solutions as well as a program board. The steering committee was overseeing the project from the beginning to the end and made all important decisions related to the the organization of the conference. The program board looked over all the submitted presentation abstracts and made suggestions based on their professional knowledge to select the best presenters.
As the programm came together over the months before the conference, a lot of focus was also put on communication activities. This was done as part of the Presidency of the Estonian Republic of the Council of the European Union as well as directly to different stakeholders. Experts in the steering committee distributed information in their networks, think tanks and related organizations were directly e-mailed, press releases were written for local visibility, information was put up on social media and official presidency websites and a conference website was set up.
Journalists were contacted directly and through presidency channels and introductory materials on the conference and its topics along with examples were distributed to them. This resulted in a lot of interest in the local media and over the three-day conference period, several TV and radio spots were achieved.
The conference attracted around 400 people over the three days and several hundred more live stream viewers. All the abstracts from the presenters were put together in an e-book form that was distributed among attendees and stakeholders directly and via the conference web-site. The e-book also contained an executive summary and an overview of the conference as well as the main conclusions.
After the conference a separate event was held at the European Parliament that was co-hosted by Members of the European Parliament: Benedek Jávor, Jo Leinen, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Jose Inacio Faria and Bas Eickhout in partnership with the EU Presidencies of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria, EC Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and IUCN. The event continued the discussion on Nature-based Solutions for more sustainable and resilient societies. The conference results were presented there along with several experts who presented their work in the field of nature-based solutions.
The conference results were also presented to the Working Party on Research in January 2018 for their consideration.
The conference featured several leading European policy makers and experts, including Siim Kiisler, Estonian Minister for the Enviroment, Kęstutis Navickas, Lithuanian Minister for the Enviroment, Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature-based Solutions with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA), Patrick Child and Joanna Drake, Deputy Director Generals in the European Commission, Lena Ek, President of Swedish forestry cooperative Södra, Marjolein Helder, CEO of Plant-E and member of the EU’s High Level Group of Innovators, and many others.
It was stated by many of the speakers that nature is an important source of inspiration for sustainable solutions and our focus must be on collaboration and the exchange of best practices. The conference highlighted the need to raise public awareness about nature-based solutions and the benefits they have to offer. Showcasing best practices and using digital platforms were also deemed to be important priorities. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 83% of Europeans are interested in the wider use of nature-based solutions. However, there is still much room for improvement with regard to public awareness about the potential applications and benefits offered by nature-based solutions.
The importance of nature conservation was also raised. It is important to approach nature systemically, i.e. preserving ecosystem health and biodiversity, while also restoring damaged ecosystems.
The conference also helped prove that Europe has the potential to become the leader in the field of nature-based solutions, possessing the necessary knowledge base, best practices, and, most importantly, political will. However, in order to better promote nature-based solutions, suitable business models that are based on sound science and viable case studies need to be developed. This approach will enable attracting more investors, and facilitating the dissemination of nature-based solutions across the world. Additionally, the mapping and assessing of ecosystem services must continue.
The conference made an impact to the environmental council conclusions of the Presidency of the Estonian Republic of the Council of the European Union.
The council stressed the importance of promoting the efficient, sustainable and circular use of bio-based materials through dissemination of knowledge on innovative nature-based solutions, best practices on the sustainable use of natural resources and support for innovation in the bio-economy.
In addition the council:
underlined that by inter alia setting ambitious targets for sustainability, regions, cities and towns play a significant role in testing new solutions and pilot projects, thus catalysing eco-innovation;
recognized that nature-based solutions and green urban infrastructures offer innovative and multifunctional ways of reducing pollution and addressing local challenges, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, social inclusion, and balancing living and work spaces as well as public and private green spaces;
requested the Commission to map the areas where nature-based solutions have the highest potential for environmental performance improvement;
and called on the Member States and their regional and local authorities to set ambitious and realistic targets for sustainability, introduce nature-based solutions in regional development and spatial plans, develop partnerships and learn from best practices.
Estonian Minister of Environment Siim Kiisler speaking
Deputy Director-General Joanna Drake speaking
First panel discussion on the second day of the conference
Deputy Director-General of DG Research and Innovation Patrick Child speaking