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What influences the implementation of natural climate solutions? A systematic map and review of the evidence

February 16, 2022
News item image The study found that the implementation of natural climate solutions is influenced by many context-dependant factors.

Schulte et al  2022.

A new study in Environmental Research Letters presents a systematic review of the contextual factors that influence the implementation of natural climate solutions (NCS).

By examining a large global collection of research case studies from the peer-reviewed literature, the study synthesizes and maps the bottom-up evidence on NCS. This is is then used to clarify the definition of NCS, including in the context of nature-based solutions and other ecosystem-based approaches to addressing climate change.

The research trends, opportunities, gaps, and biases were examined to discern the factors that may affect geographic variation in NCS implementation, and what trends may be generalizable to inform best practices in policy discussions. The reviewed studies included were found to be dominated by a focus on tropical regions and activities in forest landscapes. Implementation of NCS was found to be influenced by multiple interlinked enabling factors and the interaction between them. Particular drivers were found to include engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities, performance-based finance, and technical assistance, while important interactions between factors were social and political.

The review also highlights remaining challenges to ensuring enabling factors in practice. Projects can be slow to progress or provide tangible benefits due to insecure finance or poor governance, while public perception and creating trust and confidence in project developers can greatly impact implementation. Successful participation was also found to required awareness such as through education, dialogue, or an existing connection to the land, which can also strengthen the longevity of NCS activities by promoting buy-in among indigenous peoples and local communities.

The study provides a broad assessment of implementation to inform meso-scale planning and designing non-quantitative indicators for monitoring NCS, highlights key research questions, the current discourse and state of research, the realities on-the-ground, and challenges widely held assumptions and narratives around the potential of NCS. Given that climate change is taking place across all social, economic, political, institutional, financial, technical and biophysical contexts, the study emphasises the need to prioritise  research and policy that understands and balances the enabling factors within these realms. By examining these factors, the characteristics of NCS are discerned that are relevant to designing and implementing socially just solutions and achieving long-term positive change.

Read the full paper, What influences the implementation of natural climate solutions? A systematic map and review of the evidence, in Environmental Research Letters.