How can nature-based solutions be effective tools for protecting people and planet?

Week of 3 May 2021

How can nature-based solutions be effective tools for protecting people and planet?

Our key takeaway: Nature-based solutions can be powerful drivers of transformative change on climate, biodiversity and the environment broadly, but they need to be clearly defined and rooted in respect for human rights if they are to achieve this change.

In the run-up to the next round of government negotiations on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Conference on Climate Change (both taking place later this year), NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) published a briefing to call for a clearer definition of nature-based solutions grounded in respect for human rights:

    • The concept of nature-based solutions is “both widely used and controversial”—and defining it clearly is necessary as governments ramp up action on biodiversity and climate. Since the term originated more than a decade ago, it has taken on meaning 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” (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2016). At the same time, the term is controversial, because it includes “actions to offset emissions, or actions that destroy nature in one area (mining, infrastructure, etc.) and which are ‘offset’ by investment in creating, maintaining or restoring natural or ‘modified’ systems elsewhere.” Ultimately, nature-based solutions “need more clarity and rigour” if they are truly going to drive transformative change.
    • Human rights—and especially indigenous peoples’ land and natural resource tenure—are crucial underpinnings to transformational nature-based solutions. “Not only are the human rights we all enjoy intricately dependent on a healthy and safe environment, but the recognition of human rights can itself be essential for restoring and protecting healthy ecosystems.” What’s more, by protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and securing their tenure over their traditional lands we can ensure that nature is protected and restored, prevent deforestation and more effectively manage use of natural resources—all of which has wide-reaching implications for global environmental and human well-being.
    • Nature-based solutions must be accompanied by meaningful changes to energy use and production and consumption models. According to FPP, “offsetting should be off the table” because it serves to “delay or reduce action to urgently cut emissions and halt the destruction of nature.” Likewise, we can’t make meaningful dents in global emissions or stop deforestation if we do not “address over-consumption, industrial production and an economic system that drives unsustainable use.” This needs to be done through regulation, mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence and increased corporate and supply chain transparency.

For more, see Forest Peoples Programme, Re-Thinking Nature-Based Solutions: Seeking Transformative Change Through Culture and Rights (May 2021)