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Making the case for nature-based solutions to climate change


05 Jul 2018


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Climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty are inextricably linked. Not only do communities from the poorest nations suffer the worst effects of climate change, they also experience the highest rates of loss and damage to their natural ecosystems.

However, nature is our best line of defence against harmful environment change. In particular, it is becoming increasingly clear that the protection and restoration of nature can be the most cost-effective way of dealing with both the causes and consequences of climate change.

For example, one recent study indicates we could achieve a 30-40% reduction in CO2 emissions by restoring natural habitats across the globe; while another shows how natural coastal habitats have protected millions of dollars’ worth of property during recent hurricanes in America. In other words, there is growing evidence that nature-based solutions can helping slow warming, shield us from the impacts of change, and protect the ecosystems on which our health, wealth and wellbeing so fundamentally depends.

Despite this, nature-based solutions are not being implemented across the globe, and they receive very little funding.  There are three major reasons for this. First, evidence for the benefits of nature in a changing world is very scattered. Second, there is a lack of knowledge exchange between scientists, policy makers and practitioners: too much ecosystem science is done in isolation from the end-users, and too many adaptation policy decisions are made without considering the science. And third, more broadly, there is a general lack of appreciation in business and government of our fundamental dependency on nature, especially in a warming world.

To address these issues, I’ve been working with partners from the conservation and development sectors, to create a new interdisciplinary programme of research, research translation, policy advice and advocacy called the Nature-based Solutions Initiative. Last week at the Adaptation Futures conference, (the largest annual gathering of researchers, practitioners and policy makers looking for long-term sustainable solutions to the impacts of climate change) in Cape Town, we launched the Initiative.

Image by: Dr. Cécile Girardin, Oxford University

The launch included the release of a new interactive online science to policy platform which makes information about climate change adaptation planning across the globe openly available, easy and interesting to explore. The platform includes country by country details of who is doing what in terms of incorporating nature-based solutions into their adaptation plans and is linked to an extensive database of scientific evidence for the effectiveness of such approaches. This initial version showcases adaptation plans in the climate pledges of all signatories of the Paris Agreement, and highlights the prominence of Nature-based Solutions to climate change hazards. The goal is to facilitate the global stocktake of the Paris Agreement and provide a baseline against which changes in ambition for Nature-based Solutions to climate change adaptation can be monitored and increased.

The launch has included a beautiful animation explaining the value of nature in a warming world, created by Dr Cécile Girardin from Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment.


This opinion piece reflects the views of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Oxford Martin School or the University of Oxford. Any errors or omissions are those of the author.