Study on nature-based solutions for global climate protection

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Nature-based solutions such as restoring peatlands are important measures for climate mitigation
Source: Susanne Kambor

In a study for the German Environment Agency, a research team from Öko-Institut and Ecologic Institute has examined the role of nature-based solutions (NbS) for global climate action and international climate policy. The results show that their potential to mitigate emissions is probably overestimated in the literature. Nevertheless, NbS can bring various benefits and should be promoted actively.

Nature-based solutions build synergies between biodiversity conservation and societal challenges

The international climate negotiations at COP26 highlighted the importance of nature-based solutions (NbS) for global climate protection. Nature-based solutions are locally appropriate, adaptive measures to protect, sustainably manage or restore ecosystems. Examples include agroforestry, peatland rewetting, or reforestation, but only if appropriate in the local ecological, social and political context. NbS do protect or enhance biodiversity while tackling societal challenges such as climate change. This paper derives a working definition of NbS, using the IUCN (2016) definition as a basis.

Climate impact of nature-based solutions is uncertain

The research project critically assesses the global mitigation potential of NbS in relevant studies for forests, croplands, grasslands, terrestrial and coastal wetlands, and settlements. The study “Nature-based solutions and global climate protection” concludes that NbS potentials reported in the scientific literature probably overestimate the realistic potential of NbS for climate change mitigation. This is due to a lack of integrated studies, overly optimistic assumptions on land availability and the quality of the available information. A number of risks and uncertainties related to carbon fluxes and climate feedbacks, which are not taken into account, further limit the mitigation potential. The success of NbS in mitigating climate change and delivering environmental and social benefits will depend largely on the extent to which direct and indirect pressures on ecosystems caused by current production and consumption patterns are reduced. 

Nature-based solutions bring various benefits for people and the environment

The uncertainties associated with quantifying the mitigation effects of NbS should not be used as an argument against their implementation. Besides their mitigation effect, NbS deliver a range of benefits for people and the environment and should be actively promoted. In doing so, the implementation of emissions trading activities under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement must take the specific risks associated with NbS into account. Social and environmental safeguards must be introduced when developing procedures or support schemes to promote NbS. To promote synergies, coherence with work under other international policy frameworks such as the other Rio Conventions is needed.