Nature-based solutions for a sustainable future

18 February 2014 | News story

On 13-14 February, the European Economic and Social Committee organized a conference on “A new global partnership – European civil society positions on the post -2015 framework" in Brussels, Belgium. A wide range of civil society representatives, EU Officials and UN delegates debated to address key themes and areas for possible goals, as well as the underlying principles of universality and integration for a new development model.

At Rio+20, consensus was reached that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) have to balance the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. That the environment is the basis for the other two pillars was also stressed by Commissioner Potočnik: “There is a large group that does not yet fully accept the fact that economic development lifting people out of poverty will in the long run only work if we fully respect the planetary boundaries. For instance, maintaining forests and healthy soil - especially grassland - will ensure they continue to provide essential services such as protection of water resources, mitigating climate change, help maintaining resilience to disasters and hosting many species. Since 2 billion of the poorest people depend on forests and grassland for their livelihoods, this is essential to achieve poverty eradication and sustainable development.”

This was reiterated by Brenda King, member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) who said that eradication of hunger not only requires an emergency food reserve system but also that nature-based solutions are essential in assuring that healthy ecosystems can provide for the livelihoods of the poor.

Nature can play a strong role in tackling global challenges. Nature’s solutions are at our fingertips, they are cost-effective and we know how to implement them. IUCN pioneered nature-based solutions at the UN climate negotiations. We continue to promote them to mitigate and adapt to climate change, secure water, food and energy supplies, reduce poverty and drive economic development.

Cyrie Sendashonga, Global Director of IUCN Policy and Programme Group, commented during the conference: “The international community puts a lot of focus on ensuring and strengthening peace and security. This often refers to peace between nations and within nations, but in this context of sustainable development, it has to include a third dimension: mankind has to be at peace also with nature, living in harmony with it as our society and economy cannot be seen in isolation from the services that ecosystems provide.”

With many voices advocating for the universality of the SDGs, it is clear that the new framework will also have implications and require transformations within our societies. “The EU has an incredible responsibility, and we have the resources to realize this within the EU. We have to face the ‘uncomfortable truth’ that this requires a different pattern of consumption and a redistribution of resources”, said Luc Bas, Director of IUCN Brussels during his intervention at the high level closing session of the two day conference.

The key messages and recommendations of the EESC conference on the Post-2015 framework, work in progress, will provide timely input into the expected Communication of the European Commission, laying the ground for a more detailed EU position.