Nature-Based Solutions to Address the Climate and Ecological Emergency

Nature-Based Solutions to Address the Climate and Ecological Emergency

The loss of biodiversity and habitat is escalating globally, and the cities are becoming some of the major victims, putting at risk many of the life-sustaining ecosystem services upon which communities and livelihoods depend. The vulnerability of cities is growing due to the impacts of climate change, including soaring temperatures, floods, earthquakes, storms and the rise of sea level. According to the research, more than half of the world’s population resides in cities. It can be a driver of positive change, helping to address the global climate and ecological emergency. (WEForum, 2022). Considering the importance of cities, there is a dire need to find new solutions to mitigate these effects by returning to nature. 

What are Nature-Based Solutions?

Nature-based solutions are the actions that protect, manage or restore natural ecosystems to address challenges like climate change, food security, water security, and disaster risk reduction effectively and adaptively and provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits. For example, the problem of flooding in coastal areas occurs due to coastal erosion and storm surge. This common problem is traditionally tackled with manmade (grey) infrastructure like sea walls or dikes, but nature-based actions like tree planting can also address it. Planting trees that thrive in coastal areas like mangroves helps reduce the impacts of storms, providing a habitat for aquatic animals and birds and supporting plant biodiversity. 

Nature-Based Solutions to help Fight Climate Change

Nature-based solutions play a significant role in climate adaptation and building resilience and sustainability in landscapes and communities. According to estimates, nature-based solutions can contribute 37% to the mitigation needs until 2030 (World Bank, 2022). Nature-based solutions help reduce carbon footprints. One of the best examples is restoring native forests at the river’s margins to avoid landslides that act as carbon sinks. Another example is climate-smart agriculture which enables farmers to reserve more carbon in their fields as they produce crops. Another way to benefit from nature-based solutions is decreasing deforestation by paying farmers not to cut down the forest preserves ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, provision of clean drinking water, and reduction of river sedimentation downstream.

Some of the other constructive nature-based solutions have been discussed below:

An Interactive Nature-Based Solutions Map

A recently published BiodiverCities by 2030 insight report urges communities to reintegrate nature into their spatial planning decisions and rebuild the ‘natural layer’ to development. To address climate change challenges, there is a dire need to develop a nature-based solutions0 map that enables planners, project engineers, owners and designers to devise how best to restore nature in their cities and communities by building their resilience to climate impacts helping citizens reconnect with the natural world. This initiative will help improve air and water quality, temperature regulation, habitat compensation and carbon sequestration. At the same time, it provides access to green space and nature, which is good for physical and mental well-being. The map supports considering nature from the start of a project, planning for and maximising benefits, and building confidence in nature-based solutions’ performance, cost and long-term maintenance needs.

Returning Nature to Cities

Here is the connected six-step framework that offers a systemic and integrated approach to incorporate nature-based solutions through all stages of the construction process of a new project. 

  1. Establish a shared vision.
  2. Identify the areas for nature-based solutions.
  3. Calculate the range of benefits that each solution delivers and select a preferred option.
  4. Finalise design and prepare for construction
  5. Construction
  6. Maintain, monitor, evaluate and learn

Following are the examples of cities that have successfully incorporated these solutions:

  • To address the challenge of flooding in Counter Creek, west London, sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) have been installed that helped reduce surface water runoff entering combined sewers and flooding basements during heavy rainfall. Also, the rain gardens and tree pits are attractive new solutions that enhance the streetscape.
  • Another example is the Transformation of degraded and abandoned land into a new riverfront park in Newark, New Jersey, which has improved air quality, helped to reduce the urban heat island effect and decreased the runoff of sediment and pollutants into the Passaic River. 

Adopting “Systems Thinking” in City Planning

System thinking is an approach to urban planning and requires building the capacity of various stakeholders to exercise a new mindset of looking holistically at city systems. The map and framework reinforce city planners to adopt ‘system thinking’ in planning and managing cities. Nature-based solutions in the map across an area or water catchment, through the town to the coast, from the mountains and fields show the interconnections between economic and social infrastructure and the natural environment. It gives a guideline where nature can play a role in providing better outcomes. Developing such a system-level picture facilitates actions to be assessed and valued for their impact on local air quality, flood risk, food and energy poverty, health and well-being and carbon reduction. Assigning values to these co-benefits enables decision-makers to evaluate the trade-offs from competing changes to land, better identity solutions to enhance both human development and conservation, and to provide a robust business case.

Encouraging Investment in Nature-Based Solutions

There is a need to mainstream biodiversity data and promote new models to de-risk investments to make nature-based solutions attractive to financial markets and private sector investors. Collecting evidence over time on the performance, costs and maintenance of nature-based solutions and their co-benefits can help build investors’ confidence. Introducing policy and regulatory incentives to share risks and rewards equitably across interested parties like city authorities and local businesses, and landowners can go a long way to encourage investment in less conventional interventions to combat flooding and soaring temperatures and the other challenges facing cities.


Nature-based solutions provide many ways to address the climate and biodiversity crises in a synergetic and cost-effective manner. All pathways to achieving a sustainable future include the protection of forests and conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of natural ecosystems. Therefore, by prioritising nature in investment decisions, urban leaders and city planners can enhance the resilience and liveability of their cities, contributing to a secure, sustainable future for wildlife and people.

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IMARAT Institute of Policy Studies

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