TECHNOLOGY TRENDS Nature-based solutions

According to the IPCC, we have less than 10 years to reverse course on climate change. There are no ‘silver bullets’ or quick fixes to solve this problem or remedy damage we have inflicted in the form of land degradation, which has undermined agricultural and ecological productivity, and threatened food security, water resources and biodiversity. However, we do have nature at our doorstep. The natural world embodies an “immense restorative power” and offers a multitude of synergistic and cost-effective solutions. Indeed, without tapping into the power of nature, we are not likely to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the Paris Agreement targets or the SDGs.

According to UNEP, we must invest efforts in the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems, enacting dramatic changes in our interactions with nature to “unlock its full potential.” We must invest in what are now called nature-based solutions. IUCN defines nature-based solutions (NbS) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.”

NbS can be considered as an umbrella concept that actually covers a diverse array of ecosystem-related approaches encompassing five main categories: ecosystem restoration, issue-specific ecosystem-related, infrastructure-related, ecosystem-based management, and ecosystem protection approaches.

The CTCN assists countries with implementing NbS that demonstrate their effectiveness in cross-cutting areas, including disaster risk reduction, water resource management, biodiversity, and climate resilience. It has been emphasized strongly since the pandemic that technologies and practices for nature-based resilience can contribute to building back for a better society and can continue this trend if we harness their potential and facilitate the engagement of stakeholders, including the private sector.

For example, the CTCN helped a wide range of stakeholders assess the costs and benefits of various mitigation options, suitable technologies, and policies for Vietnam’s rice sector, which represented a unique opportunity to scale up a nature-based solution in response to the crop’s methane emissions. In collaboration with UNEP-DHI, the CTCN helped the Government of Lao PDR design ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) solution options for building urban resilience in 6 cities, including reforestation and forest conservation, wetland restoration or conservation, water harvesting, flood bypasses, green roofs/spaces, and permeable pavements. And the CTCN is currently supporting the development of tailored coastal modelling tools (bathymetric and wave models) for Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Kiribati that will enable a more accurate outline of high hazard areas, contribute to improved coastal zone risk management and planning, and facilitate more effective climate change adaptation responses.

This year, the CTCN collaborated with knowledge partner UNEP-DHI to prepare a regional technology brief focusing on NbS solutions to emerging water management challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. This publication sought to highlight the potential of NbS in the region, showcasing a diverse set of case studies, from urban greening projects and coastal protection initiatives to local wastewater treatment and community eco-engineering projects. The publication provides a myriad of examples and lessons learned, confirming that NbS is a critical mechanism to build climate change resilience within the water sector and that it contributes to the achievement of numerous SDGs.