In the past few years, ‘Nature-based Solutions’ has emerged as a new umbrella term for measures “inspired and supported by nature”. Nature-based Solutions may include a range of urban, coastal and land-based approaches, such as coral reef restoration, afforestation, watershed creation, green roofs and facades and more. These types of ecological approaches that utilize the natural world, can help policymakers tackle many societal issues, such as climate change.
The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels has put the urgency of immediate and effective climate action front and center once again. Not only is a swift reduction of greenhouse gas emissions extremely important, but, with the amount of warming that has already ‘locked-in’, climate change adaptation is also top of the priority list.
Climate change presents many challenges to the private sector, in particular for companies whose products or services are dependent on natural resource or have assets that are exposed to the elements. Companies will need to consider how to protect their assets from damages caused by extreme weather events, how to maintain services in the face of a changing climate, and how to maintain access to increasingly scarce natural resources. Not planning for climate change impacts can result in service failures with severe economic or reputational losses and cascading impacts to other sectors.
So, how can Nature-based Solutions help companies deal with climate and climate-related risks and why should the private sector invest in them? Here are three reasons to begin with:
- Nature-based Solutions often take advantage of existing natural resources that regenerate themselves, consuming less energy and remaining unaffected by power loss as opposed to many gray infrastructure solutions. An example of this could be water treatment of industrial wastewater through wetlands.
- Many Nature-based Solutions are self-sustaining and don’t lose performance capacity over time. Depending on the solution it might even improve. Gray infrastructure solutions lose value over time and have a finite life expectancy after which they need to be replaced or decommissioned. For example, restoring or establishing oyster reefs to break wave energy and reduce coastal erosion instead of building artificial wave breakers.
- Nature-based solutions offer many co-benefits that can range from aesthetic appreciation to biodiversity conservation, decreasing water runoff and thus flood risk, and having a beneficial impact on human health. These co-benefits can significantly improve the reputation of private companies. Take for example a company that installs rainwater harvesting features in the form of vegetation and underground water storage to use the harvested water in bathrooms on their premises, thus reducing its impact on the local water supply, providing a pleasant green environment to its employees, and having a positive impact on local biodiversity.
In order to effectively make the business case for Nature-based Solutions and encourage the private sector to increase its investment in them, the Inter-American Development Bank, UN Environment, Acclimatise, and UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre are working on a project to identify the barriers and enablers to private sector uptake of Nature-based Solutions, in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Despite the potential benefits and vast applications of Nature-based Solutions, few examples of private sector use in Latin America and the Caribbean have been profiled. Through our project, we are seeking to identify examples of Nature-based Solution case studies to increase infrastructure resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean. Specifically, we are searching for examples that are led by the private sector or include private sector involvement. Please fill out our survey and share your examples, as well as any barriers and enablers to nature-based Solution uptake.
About the author ————————————————
Elisa Jiménez Alonso works for Acclimatise Group Ltd. as a media & communications consultant. She has expertise in communications and analysis in the fields of climate change and sustainable development. Elisa has worked on numerous climate change communications projects providing support, knowledge, and expertise in social media, training development, targeted messaging, and producing several videos and infographics. She has also been extensively involved in projects that assess climate impacts, vulnerabilities, and risks and develop adaptation options.
Elisa joined Acclimatise after a traineeship at the European Commission’s Earth Observation Programme Copernicus where she supported the communications team. Elisa holds an MSc in Sustainable Development from University of St Andrews and a BSc in Landscape Planning and Landscape Architecture from the University of Applied Sciences and Natural Resources, Vienna.