Nature-based solutions in the IKI

Nature-based solutions combine the protection of biodiversity with greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. In doing so, they are usually less expensive than technical solutions and therefore an important component of IKI-funding. 

Tree nursery with thousands of mangrove seedlings.

Intact ecosystems are natural climate protectors: forests and wetlands, soils and moors, oceans and bodies of water, natural green spaces in the city and in the countryside bind carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and save it for the long-term. At the same time, they help people to adapt to the impacts of climate change. A natural water balance that keeps water in the landscape, for example, makes it more resilient against the increasing number of extreme weather events. It prevents droughts and establishes retention areas to provide protection against local flooding after heavy rainfall. 

The protection and restoration of ecosystems combine the conservation of climate and nature. Nature-based solutions (NbS) therefore systematically counteract the ecological double crisis of climate change and the loss of biological diversity. They consist of natural areas as well as populated and agriculturally used areas. 

Two crises, one approach: Nature-based solutions

The term NbS refers to an integrated approach that combines the conservation of biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation to climate change, as well as the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines NbS as “actions to protect, sustainably cultivate and restore natural or modified ecosystems, which effectively meet social challenges in an adaptive manner, providing benefit for human well-being and biodiversity”. The term NbS comprises a wide range of ecosystem-based and topic-specific approaches. 

One approach – many opportunities

4 people with typical Vietnamese headdresses sit in the sand and plant seedlings.
Residents of local communities in Viet Nam's Thua Thien Hue province are restoring their land with the help of seedlings.

NbS can be divided into different fields, depending on the primary benefit. If they serve primarily to adapt to the consequences of climate change, they are referred to as nature-based solutions for adaptation (NbS for Adaptation) or ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA). Examples include; the protection and reforestation of mangrove forests on coastal stretches threatened by extreme weather events, the protection of coral reefs as coastal protection and the creation of green urban ecosystems as a contribution to climate-resilient cities. Another benefit of NbS can be the reduction of greenhouse gases. For example, the reforestation of forests or the rewetting of peatlands and wetlands for carbon storage. This is referred to as NbS for climate change mitigation.

As a common factor, all NbS contribute to the promotion of biological diversity while at the same time enable positive social and/or economic effects. Mangrove forests, for instance, serve as nurseries for fish and many other marine species, which at the same time secure the livelihoods of fishermen and their families.

Due to the multiple benefits and a favourable cost-benefit ratio, NbS represent a viable alternative (and addition) to conventional technical approaches to climate action and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Despite the limited use, they have a high potential to cope with global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, food and water security, sustainable land use and the loss of biological diversity. Due to their multifunctional character, NbS can contribute to mobilising urgently needed investments from the public and private sectors in the conservation of biodiversity.  

The IKI promotes various measures

Since the launch of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) in 2008, EbA has had the highest priority in the funding area of adaptation to the impacts of climate change. With approximately 65 projects worldwide and a funding volume of over 380 million EUR (status end of 2022), the IKI has since pursued the goal of achieving the comprehensive and wide-ranging deployment of EbA by means of pilot projects and capacity building. An example is the self-study EbA e-learning course that was developed within the framework of the global EbA fund and has been available since October 2022, run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), IUCN and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The knowledge generated is also integrated into international processes and makes a decisive contribution to ensuring that the topic plays an important role in negotiations in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  

The Global EbA Fund

A woman in a colourful dress looks at her crop in a village community garden in The Gambia.
A woman surveys her crops in a village community garden in Jappineh in the increasingly dry northeastern province of Gambia where UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners are helping communities adapt to climate change.

The establishment of the Global EbA Fund (GEBAF) was an important milestone in this process. The IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with support from the IKI initiated it in March 2021. The GEBAF offers quick-start support for innovative EbA approaches and aims to improve understanding, planning and expansion of EbA, as well as access to funding for EbA measures. To accomplish this, it predominantly fills funding shortfalls and knowledge gaps, whereby the thematic focus is placed on innovative approaches that are devised with a high focus on covering identified needs. In addition, it creates incentives for new financing mechanisms and private sector investments. To increase its range, the fund makes use of established partnerships and networks such as the “Friends of EBA”, the “Global Adaptation Network” and the “Global Commission on Adaptation”. 

Since its foundation, four calls for project ideas were started by the end of 2022. A total of 23 projects have been approved so far with a total volume of around 5.6 million US dollars within the framework of the first two calls. In 2022, the IKI increased its contribution to the GEBAF by another €10 million to a total of €40 million. 

Securing sustainable water supplies

Three men kneel in the jungle in front of a coffee seedling.
A project participant demonstrates the growth of the coffee plants in his newly established agroforestry plot to Juan Carlos Funes and Marvin Hernández from GreenWatersheds-partner Defensores de la Naturaleza.

The project "Resilient Forests and Financing Options for Sustainable Water Supplies in the Tropics" systematically applies nature-based solutions to improve the water supply in the project regions in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico. Robust forests play an important role here. The project develops ecosystem-based land use plans in a participatory manner with its local partner organisations and implements conservation measures for the restoration of forests. In Mexico, the project afforested an area of more than 445 hectares by the end of 2022 and implemented measures to restore degraded areas of approximately 360 hectares. Furthermore, over 360 climate-resilient agroecological systems have been established in Mexico. This is can be seen as an agricultural approach in which cultivation pursues the goal of generating the most positive interactions possible between plants, water, soil, trees, animals and humans. 

Since 2021, the project has additionally focused on the increase of EbA measures and on their improved embedding in regional structures and economic sectors while involving actors from the private sector. 

Food security and ensuring the resilience of coastal communities

Seagrass meadow from above. A small fishing boat can be seen on the water.
Seagrass meadows are an important food source for many animals and at the same time a carbon store.

The project "Protection of seagrass ecosystems - food security and ensuring the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities" works to preserve areas in Asia where seagrass grows. Seagrass is an important source of food for manatees and other marine animals and provides important ecosystem services. For example, it binds carbon dioxide and, like mangroves, provides important habitats for fish and other marine species.

The transfer of knowledge regarding the protection and importance of seagrass ecosystems and how to identify areas worthy of protection is an important tool. For this purpose, the project uses its own website, “Dugong and Seagrass Hub”, shares information via its own social media channels and stages events. It closely involves communities in the partner countries as well as local NGOs who are trained in conducting participatory research, in order to collect data on important areas of seagrass areas. 

The project team is also developing alternative business models to improve livelihoods and provide funds for the protection of seagrass. These include, for example, spirulina aquacultures and a Blue-Carbon credit programme, which can provide an additional source of income.  

For more information on IKI activities in the field of EbA, please visit the topic page on ecosystem-based adaptation.

The ENACT Initiative

The Enhancing Nature-based Solutions for Accelerated Climate Transformation (ENACT) Initiative was launched at the 27th World Climate Conference by Germany and Egypt (as the COP27 Presidency). The initiative is a voluntary combination of governmental and non-governmental actors with chairpersons from Egypt and Germany. This initiative will prepare an annual report on the status of the nature-based solutions to inform the next World Climate Conference (COP28) and subsequent meetings on the progress in compliance with the implementation of nature-based solution commitments. The ENACT Secretariat, which is responsible for the implementation of the initiative, is hosted by the IUCN. 

ENACT will contribute to the following objectives: 

  • Protection of at least 1 billion vulnerable people, among them at least 500 million women and girls, from the impacts of climate change and strengthen their resilience. 
  • Securing of up to 2.4 billion hectares of healthy natural and sustainable agricultural ecosystems by placing 45 million hectares under conservation protection, sustainably cultivating 2 billion hectares and restoring 350 million hectares. 
  • Significantly boosting global mitigation efforts by protecting, conserving and restoring carbon-rich land, freshwater and marine ecosystems. 

The ENACT initiative also strives to reach the goal of improving the coordination of the existing activities and partnerships for nature-based solutions and to promote cooperation in this area.  

IKI Annual Report 2022

This article is part of the IKI Annual Report 2022. Learn more about the IKI Year 2022 ...

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