European Nature-based Solutions

Europe faces enormous challenges in the years to come. These challenges include adapting to climate change and enhancing our resilience to natural disasters, providing food to more than 500 million people, increasing our water and air quality, protecting biodiversity, tackling socio-economic inequality, and dealing with a rapidly expanding urban population. Nature-based solutions have a role to play in solving all of these issues.

Photo: Felipe Santana

What are Nature-based Solutions?


Nature-based solutions are interventions which use nature and the natural functions of healthy ecosystems to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. These types of solutions help to protect the environment but also provide numerous economic and social benefits.

Creating or restoring green spaces in cities, for example, can increase tourism revenues, provide recreational opportunities for citizens, and help lower temperatures and pollution levels in urban areas. Building oyster reefs in coastal areas can provide a nature-based solution to coastal erosion and storm surges, while also filtering contaminated seawater, fostering biodiversity, and supporting local fisheries.

IUCN works with governments, the private sector and the scientific community to raise awareness of the benefits of these types of solutions, and translate the latest science and knowledge on nature-based solutions into support and guidance for practical implementation.


Nature-based Solutions in Europe

In Europe, the IUCN European Regional Office works closely with EU institutions, EU member states and other key stakeholders to ensure that the concept of nature-based solutions is well-known, accepted, and reflected in policies across different sectors and levels of government.

In 2015, IUCN welcomed the European Commission’s decision to make nature-based solutions part of the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation which signifies a major step towards positioning the EU as a world leader in innovation with nature.

NBS in the urban context – working with local and regional governments

IUCN recognizes that many decisions which affect biodiversity are taken at the sub-national (i.e. local and regional) level. Therefore IUCN supports efforts by cities and regional governments towards biodiversity conservation.

Nature offers great untapped potential for improving the quality of life of urban citizens and finding cost-effective solutions to challenges such as rising temperatures (the urban heat island effect) or flooding. The challenge is to develop urban planning approaches and measures which enable people to reap the many benefits and services provided by nature (such as water, air, food, temperature regulation, recreational opportunities) but also protect the environment from unsustainable exploitation.

IUCN is one of the few organisations that focuses on the biodiversity dimension of the urban sustainability agenda in Europe and promotes nature-based solutions in the urban context. The IUCN European Regional Office seeks to increase collaboration with cities to conserve biodiversity, develop the evidence base of the economic, social and environmental benefits of nature-based solutions, and communicate success stories to inspire positive action for nature in urban areas in Europe and around the world.