EU Commission report explores the knowledge gaps in nature-based solutions implementation

14 July 2022

The 2022 report by the European Commission titled “The vital role of nature-based solutions in a nature positive economy” is a flagship expert document that aims to address the knowledge gaps in the potential nature-based solutions (NbS) can have in a nature-positive economy. The report, aimed directly at economic policy makers, is also directed at policy makers across multiple domains, public sector institutions and agencies, researchers, civil society and NGO representatives, investors and financial institutions, industry and nature-based enterprises (NBEs) delivering NbS.

The nature-based approach is similar to concepts such as circular economy, which proposes feasible paths towards sustainable economic development. The report’s objectives are to showcase new approaches to economic development, such where the value of nature and its contribution to the economy are recognised and form the basis of future economic development strategies. More specifically, the report sets out to increase recognition of the vital role of NbS in creating a nature-positive economy and outline the specific role NBEs have in this process.  

To create the report, a range of stakeholders, industry practitioners, representing more established sectors such as sustainable agriculture and green infrastructure practitioners  were consulted. In this way, the report paints a clear picture of the policy obstacles that preclude the embedding of NbS into strategic economic planning. 

Section 2.2.3 NbS for public and urban spaces of the report focuses on urban planning and design of location specific NbS such as systems for rainwater management, green roofs, restoration of degraded environments etc. The potential of NbS for urban landscapes is usually highlighted in policy agendas, but there is little market data on upscalability. This is relevant for NICHES and its project aims about urban water management. 

Another valuable for NICHES part of the report is section 2.2.4 NBS for water management and treatment, which explores the natural solutions for the management of flood and surface water in urban contexts, wastewater management and treatment, and resource recovery. According to surveys from NetworkNature most businesses are involved in:

  • urban water management, incl. in solutions such as sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS)

  • wastewater treatment, incl. green zone creation, constructed wetlands, etc. 

  • surface water treatment 

There is immense potential for green jobs within the world water market, and especially in Europe. Traditionally, “grey” or “hard” infrastructure have dominated efforts to reduce and manage impacts from natural disasters and to manage water resources, but the focus is now shifting towards NbS for water management, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation. NICHES’ ambition to promote sustainable innovation in urban aquatic infrastructure through NbS aligns with the EU Commission’s report and its findings. 

Despite that, there is still a long way to go until direct investments in NbS are sufficiently financed. One of the main obstacles in the water management sector are lack of networking, cooperation opportunities, greater evidence of NbS effectiveness, and lack of knowledge on market opportunities and business cases. 

To read more or access the report click here.