Nature-based Solutions: Pursuing the Mainstream

Following on from my previous blog on ecosystem services, I decided to delve deeper into the broader topic of nature-based solutions, this time through a short course provided by the University of Lund. Increasingly, we see a focus on nature-based solutions to contemporary problems, especially in the field of climate mitigation and adaptation. The term “nature-based solutions” has its origins in the European Union. It is therefore not surprising that the subject is strongly represented within current EU grant programmes.

Seeking Solutions in Nature

The idea behind nature-based solutions is simply that nature can offer us solutions to various problems, from the influence of climate change on our cities to economic and social deprivation. For example, you may think of planting a forest in the city, or so-called urban roofs: Such man-made greenery can absorb CO2, help mitigate flooding, and provide a healthier living environment with added social and economic value. It also increases biodiversity in the built environment. An example here is the LIFE@Urban Roofs project, on which my colleague Henny Doppenberg wrote a blog earlier this month.

As this example suggests, climate is a primary focus within the realm of nature-based solutions. You may think of solutions that reduce the exposure of the environment to extremes—such as planting vegetation to counteract heat stress—but also of solutions that make the environment resistant to the effects of climate change, such as coping with heavier rainfall. In addition, restoration is also an important factor: It is not just about mitigation and adaptation, but also about repairing what has been damaged or lost. As the EU’s LIFE grant programme mentioned on LinkedIn earlier this year:

“Europe’s nature restoration is key to #EUBiodiversty‘s strategy for 2030. Restoring our ecosystems will boost biodiversity 🌳🦋 & help mitigate #climatechange – preventing and reducing the impacts of natural disasters.”

Mainstreaming: Integration into Broader Policies 

However, how do we turn these wonderful ideas into concrete, workable plans and projects? Time and time again, it becomes clear that if policy implementation does not follow suit or lags behind, beautiful ideas and small-scale initiatives will remain just that. Therefore, mainstreaming is an important tool to implement nature-based solutions, integrating nature-based solutions into mainstream policy.

The EU sets a good example when it comes to mainstreaming: For example, climate action is now also integrated into all other major EU funding programmes, such as regional development, energy, transport, research and innovation, agriculture, and sustainable development. Moreover, the new LIFE Environment and Nature programme 2021-2027 also introduces a new instrument: the so-called Strategic Nature Projects, which specifically aim to integrate nature and biodiversity policy with other EU policy issues, such as agriculture.

Strategic Nature Projects: Moving into the Future

More information on the Strategic Nature Projects, as well as the exact content of the new LIFE programme, is expected to be released around April. With a proposed budget of €5.45 billion—representing a 60% increase—it is clear that nature, biodiversity, climate change and, above all, their place in all other facets of the European economy and society, will continue to receive close attention in the coming period. 

Integrating into the mainstream, rather than going against the flow. However, it is clear we must change course, towards a blue-green future from which both nature and the urban environment can benefit, and in which nature, biodiversity, and climate adaptation become an integrated part of mainstream policy and innovation. We would like to help you on your way. 


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