Nature-based Solutions for Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Although countries across Asia region differ widely, the confluence of poverty and inequality, dependence on natural resources, rapidly growing populations, and governance challenges make the region particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels and saline intrusion threaten Asian islands and nations, river deltas and coastal areas, and increased temperatures are leading to glacier lake outburst resulting in floods and landslides in the Himalayas, and coral bleaching in the region’s reefs. Droughts and floods in the river basins are increasing erosion, affecting water supplies, and impacting fisheries and agricultural productivity, and megacities are exposed to increasing flood risk and effects of urban heat. Further, unsustainable development compounds the impacts of climate change and megacities are increasingly exposed to flood risk and the effects of urban heat. The impacts of climate change are directly leading to loss of life and negatively affecting food and water supplies and livelihoods as well as biodiversity. Climate impacts are also predicted to lead to increased numbers of climate refugees in the region and globally.

© IUCNPhoto: © IUCN

Nature-based Solutions can help address these concerns through the multiple services provided by ecosystems in term of adaptation (water management, adaptation to disaster risks, support to livelihoods resilience) and mitigation (carbon storage). In 2016, IUCN Members adopted a definition of Nature-based Solutions 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.” IUCN then launched the Global Standard for NbS in July 2020, which consists of eight criteria and their associated indicators, which address the pillars of sustainable development (biodiversity, economy and society) and resilient project management.

Despite this significant progress, a number of key actions are still needed to upscale NbS for adaptation and mitigation in Asia, as evidenced in the outlook on Nature-based Resilience in Asia-Pacific prepared by IUCN Asia and UNEP for the 2021 Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation (APAN) Forum:

  • Capacity building on NbS for resilience: At the local and national scales, governments must support research and knowledge sharing, further developing local technical capacity to implement NbS for resilience and promoting the use of existing tools to carry out ecosystem services valuation at scale. The results must be integrated within national plans and policy, and the benefits of NbS approaches should be captured and communicated, and lessons learned should be shared with other countries in the region.
  • Science and research: There is a need for targeted research and the collection of scientific data to provide evidence to quantify NbS benefits, co-benefits and its cost-effectiveness, and to support the integration of NbS within climate change policy frameworks. To design effective adaptation strategies, it is critical to better understand the long-term interactions and drivers of impacts and how they affect the adaptive capacity of the region. For example, there is a lack of recognition of the benefits of blue carbon ecosystems in South-east Asia and their critical contribution to global climate change mitigation and adaptation. A final priority is to enhance demonstration at scale, including promoting transboundary collaboration on NbS for resilience.
  • Integrating and mainstreaming NbS for resilience: Within governments, more cross-sectoral collaboration is needed among ministries to promote and develop policies that strengthen the integration of NbS into national policies. NbS should be integrated into the NAPs and NDCs of all countries in the region, with specific, quantifiable targets. NbS should also be integrated into National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) under the CBD as well as other commitments (such as the SDG efforts, DRR and the Bonn Challenge). At the national and regional levels, the newly developed IUCN NbS Global Standard and indicators can be highlighted within strategic documents, as well as in national cross-sectoral platforms on climate change and regional cooperation.
  • Sustainable financing: The most pressing financing need in the region is to develop sustainable financing mechanisms at the national level, to reduce dependence on outside organisations and donors. Innovative financing mechanisms and investments from different sources are needed to strengthen and diversify the finance base for NbS as well as better understanding the benefits of investing into NbS. Buy-in and ownership from the private sector will be essential to the long-term continuity of NbS projects in the region.

The current NbS programme of IUCN Asia is diverse and multi-level; it is fully integrated within each specific theme. A number of national and/or regional projects specifically aiming at tackling climate adaptation and mitigation through NbS are currently being implemented.

Under the Water and Wetlands Programme, several projects support the mainstreaming of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in freshwater ecosystems, such as Mekong WET, the Water EbA Thailand project, the Mountain EbA project and our ongoing work in the Mekong Delta. Large, landscape-level programmes on EbA are also supported by GCF (in Nepal and Sri-Lanka) as well as by the Adaptation Fund in the Mekong Region. Mitigation through wetlands is tackled through the ongoing GEF Mekong peatland project. In the Marine and Coastal Programme, Mangroves for the Future acted as a pioneer project on NbS for adaptation in coastal areas.

For the Forest Programme, the TRI initiative contributes to meeting the Bonn Challenge targets, supporting the implementation of the Paris agreement. IUCN is also initiating a programme on urban resilience in Thailand, funded by BMU-IKI.

IUCN Asia is also a key partner of the Asia-Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) and organised jointly with UNEP the stream on NbS for resilience during the 7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum. IUCN Asia is also the Asia focal point, jointly with UNEP, for the mainstreaming of the newly launched Global EbA Fund in the region.

The following objectives 1 and 2 are extracted from the IUCN water programme 2021-2024 (but merging mitigation and adaptation, which are distinct in IUCN programme) and an objective (3) is added to match better the regional context.

  • Objective 1 and priority interventions - Responses to climate change and its impacts are informed by scientific ‘assessment and knowledge to avoid adverse outcomes for nature and people.

IUCN Asia will focus on strengthening the understanding of climate threats and vulnerability on ecosystems and related ecosystem services to provide clear scientific evidence of existing climate threats and the potential for ecosystems to address the issues. It will support the development of ecosystem services assessments and or valuation for key ecosystems in the region. It will also focus on climate vulnerability assessments on key ecosystems and species, with a focus on key sub-regions, large ecosystems of global importance. To do so, it will build on several methodologies developed through regional projects (e.g. the Vulnerability Assessment Tool on wetlands developed through Mekong WET).

These scientific assessments will then be turned into knowledge products and trainings to enhance the regional understanding of climate threats in the region. They will serve as the basis for the development of large landscape level projects on adaptation (see objective 2).

  • Objective 2 and priority interventions - Countries use Nature-based Solutions to scale up effective adaptation and mitigation to the impacts of climate change.

IUCN Asia will support governments and other members and partners in accessing funding for the design and implementation of climate NbS projects (e.g. GCF, GEF, BMU-IKI). These projects would look at a multi-thematic approach (e.g. source to sea) and, when possible transboundary projects to reinforce cooperation on climate action. They will make use of IUCN existing knowledge products and methodologies (e.g. NbS Global standard, ROAM methodology).

  • Objective 3 and priority intervention – Regional partnership for NbS for climate change is enhanced and supports policy integration of NbS for adaptation and mitigation

IUCN Asia will build on existing relationships and partnerships with relevant organisations (e.g. the UNEP led APAN, ADPC, ICIMOD) to provide capacity building to regional governments and CSOs on NbS and on IUCN existing tools (e.g. NbS Global standard, ROAM). In partnership with the IUCN Academy, IUCN Asia will explore opportunities to conduct trainings for key partners in the region, following the successful model of the recently conducted training on NbS for AFD.

IUCN will support policy analyses and reviews of planning frameworks of relevance to natural resources conservation and biodiversity to identify and promote entry points for the integration of NbS within those, with a focus on NAPs and NDCs.