Climate Change Adaptation – powered by Nature

Mangroves and coral reefs offer important ecosystem services; Photo: Julie Steinen/ZUG

Mangroves and coral reefs offer important ecosystem services; Photo: Julie Steinen/ZUG

The concept of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) involves managing natural resource sustainably, conserving and restoring ecosystems, such as mangroves, forests or coral reefs to increase the resilience in the face of climate-related extreme events. EbA should be part of a more comprehensive adaptation strategy and should be integrated proactively into existing planning processes in areas such as land use.

Coral reefs are maritime ecosystems; Photo: Janina Seemann/ZUG

The benefits of EbA are obvious: it enables the access to water, food and other vital resources, while moderating the effects of floods, fire and drought to safeguard people’s livelihoods. It also leads to poverty reduction, biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Mangroves with super powers

Quantified cost-benefit studies show that within a short period the benefits of restored ecosystems significantly outweigh the costs of their rehabilitation. In addition, such measures are often demonstrably cheaper than infrastructure measures. For instance, in Vietnam, planting and maintaining mangrove forests to serve as breakwaters and protect the coast has been found to be significantly cheaper than the mechanical repair of wave-induced dyke erosion.

The example of the Philippines shows that:

  • It can be 50 times more cost-effective to maintain mangroves and coral reefs than building a seawall over a 15-year investment period;
  • $450 million USD in costs per year could be avoided from storm damages if mangroves were restored to 1950 levels. (But: 50 per cent of mangroves were lost in the last 100 years);
  • 400 per cent increase in tourism revenues by 2025 can be expected linked to the conservation of marine resources (Source: Earth Security Group).

Mangroves protect coastal areas from erosion and give shelter to animals such as fish; Photo: Julie Steinen/ZUG

The International Climate Initiative (IKI) was one of the first as well as one of the biggest donor investing in healthy ecosystems to mitigate the negative effects of climate change by promoting Ecosystem-based Adaptation solutions. In the first years of the IKI EbA was a new, unknown approach that seemed to hold great potential, but its efficiency and effectiveness was yet to be proved. EbA is now one of the most important topic in the IKI funding window dedicated to adaptation and has gained wide international attention.

By the end of 2018, IKI supported 44 EbA projects across the globe with a funding volume of more than 170 million Euro. By reforming the IKI gradually over the past years, IKI wants to contribute to the next step: moving from small-scale demonstration to scaling-up of successful EbA measures through programmes, with a clear scaling mandate for several countries or entire regions.

One evidence of the growing international recognition is the comparative analysis of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC where 65 per cent of the Paris Agreement Signatories included an EbA vision into their NDCs.