Panel discussion on the potential and pitfalls of NBS for climate change mitigation and biodiversity loss prevention

15 June 2022

On 14 June 2022, a panel discussion took place in Bonn, Germany and was streamed online, as part of this year’s Bonn Climate Change Conference jointly organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with the support of Nature4Climate (N4C). The event aimed to critically examine the contribution of nature-based solutions (NbS) to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to assess some of the key obstacles precluding successful implementation and scaling up. 

The Bonn Climate Change Conference is the 56th session of the subsidiary bodies in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It serves as a formal meeting of experts, practitioners, and policy-makers with the aim of assessing progress on climate change mitigation efforts. 

The panel discussion, a side event of the Conference, is titled “Nature-based solutions to climate change: Unpacking the potentials and pitfalls.” The discussion was moderated by Dr Sandeep Sengupta, who is the Global Coordinator of Climate Change Portfolio at the IUCN. 

The discussion focused on the current state in policy discourse of nature-based solutions, including the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), during which a resolution on a multilaterally agreed definition of nature-based solutions (NbS) was adopted. The multilateral agreement on a fixed definition boosts the term’s  legitimacy. The foundational work on the definition was done by IUCN and through the UNEA-5 received the endorsement of the multilateral system. NbS are now tied with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The panellists expressed concern about the excessive reliance on NbS as means of climate change mitigation. NbS are part of a grander and more complex solution and need to be used in combination with deep and rapid decarbonisation of economic systems to achieve tangible results. Close collaboration with political systems as well as critics of the concept enhance the effectiveness of NbS.

In terms of finance, NbS can benefit from leveraging finance from public and private sources through strengthening the investment case, accounting for nature in national budgetary systems, private sector-disclosure of nature-related financial risks, and an effort to de-risk investments.

It is important to note that planting a species and expecting it to rejuvenate ecosystems is not sufficient to ensure a trickle down effect of benefits. It has to be complemented with an in-depth examination of complex systems and their interactions. NbS should be understood for their co-benefits and that they can only work successfully in combination with deep decarbonisation of other sectors.