Narratives around Nature-based Solutions

Holding up magnifying glass ball to forest
A new report finds that Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are now widely viewed as an effective way of helping to address climate adaptation and mitigation, although many are concerned about their misuse in greenwashing and violations of human rights.

A new report, released last week, explores the multifaceted concept of Nature-based Solutions (NbS), with the aim of shedding light on how NbS are interpreted by different communities of practice within the biodiversity and climate sectors.

The report was co-authored by Alex Chausson (Senior Associate at the Nature-based Solutions Initiative) in a collaboration with Unearthodox. Researchers explored emerging tensions surrounding NbS amidst growing support for their implementation.

The report adopts the ‘Three Horizons framework’ to provide:

·       a comprehensive analysis of the current situation (Horizon 1),

·       the emergence of disruptive innovations (Horizon 2),

·       and a transformative future where human-nature relations are rooted in interbeing and interdependence (Horizon 3).

Key findings from the report reveal a complex landscape of narratives and frames within the NbS community. Proponents view NbS as cost-effective approach to helping to address climate adaptation and mitigation, but concerns about greenwashing, potential negative impacts on biodiversity, and inclusivity issues persist.

The report identifies two primary narratives among supporters: one focused on climate mitigation through carbon markets and another on enhancing resilience to climate impacts. Critics, however, argue that the misapplication of NbS can perpetuate business-as-usual approaches and marginalise Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP&LCs), calling for a deeper examination of structural drivers behind climate and biodiversity crises.

One of the core themes of the study was the importance of inclusive and just implementation of NbS. Findings underscored the need for NbS projects to be implemented by or in close partnership with IP&LCs to ensure their knowledge and rights are respected. The report emphasises that justice-oriented approaches must challenge imbalanced power dynamics and promote decolonial funding mechanisms that empower local communities to lead interventions that align with their needs and priorities.

The horizon framing used in this report is not just theoretical but aligns with practical discussions presented at the NbS conference, held in Oxford June 18-20. The first two days of the conference focused on current solutions to deliver tangible impact within the current economic system, while the final day looked at how we might transform the economy so that it supports human wellbeing and ecological integrity. This dual focus on immediate impact and long-term transformation is crucial for understanding and advancing NbS and the report explores both.

This report aims to serve as a valuable resource for anyone interested in the uptake of NbS and their potential role in shaping biodiversity and climate policy; offering insights into the tensions around NbS and exploring how these solutions can be harnessed to enable a flourishing future. We encourage policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and all stakeholders to engage with these findings and consider the recommendations to foster just and regenerative outcomes for nature and people as part of nature.


Download the report here.