Nature-based Solutions – New Global Standards

By Deepu Sivadas, Co-Lead, IUCN CEM Young Professionals Network.

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are increasingly accepted and being implemented to address our societal challenges related with Climate Change, Disaster Risk, Water Security, Food Security, Human Health and Socioeconomic Development.

After a two-year participatory consultation, IUCN has developed a Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions which facilitates all to consistently and reliably upscaling the NbS activities.  The new standards were launched as part of two high-level virtual events on 23 July 2020.

The two events were as follows:

  • High-level launch event – rewatch here.
  • High-level launch panel discussion – rewatch here.

The audience for the IUCN Global Standard for NbS is broad, and it is for the use of Governments, businesses, investors, communities, NGOs.  This was developed after a rigorous consultation process (truly democratised process with over 800 stakeholders across 100 countries) for ensuring that the standards address the societal challenges. 

It is at the 2016 WCC that a definition was developed for the first time to define the NbS (WCC-2016-Res-069).  According to the resolution, Nature-based Solutions are

“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”.

Further research by IUCN recognised the core principles for effectively implementing and upscaling Nature-based Solutions (Cohen-Sacham, 2019).

The timeline shown highlights the major milestones in the evolution of the NbS concept. (Source: Cohen-Sacham, 2019)

The Global Standard – A user friendly standard

Eight criteria of IUCN Global Standards for Nature-based Solutions

The document reiterates the need for the new standards as:

“As NbS enters into policy and is adopted by projects on the ground there is a pressing need for greater clarity and precision of what the concept entails and what is required for it to be deployed successfully. Without this, the application of NbS could result in inconsistent and ungrounded applications. The standard, therefore, also provides a systematic learning framework so that lessons can improve and evolve the applications, leading to greater confidence in NbS among decision-makers”.

The Global Standards for NbS has identified eight criterions each being linked to the eight principles adopted while defining NbS in the IUCN WCC Res 6.069.

Criterion 1: NbS effectively address societal challenges1.1. The most pressing societal challenge(s) for rights-holders and beneficiaries are prioritised
1.2. The societal challenge(s) addressed are clearly understood and documented
1.3. Human well-being outcomes arising from the NbS are identified, benchmarked and periodically assessed
Criterion 2: Design of NbS is informed by scale2.1. The design of the NbS recognises and responds to interactions between the economy, society and ecosystems
2.2. The design of the NbS is integrated with other complementary interventions and seeks synergies across sectors
2.3. The design of the NbS incorporates risk identification and risk management beyond the intervention site
Criterion 3: NbS result in a net gain to biodiversity and ecosystem integrity3.1. The NbS actions directly respond to evidence-based assessment of the current state of the ecosystem and prevailing drivers of degradation and loss
3.2. Clear and measurable biodiversity conservation outcomes are identified, benchmarked and periodically assessed
3.3. Monitoring includes periodic assessments of unintended adverse consequences on nature arising from the NbS
3.4. Opportunities to enhance ecosystem integrity and connectivity are identified and incorporated into the NbS strategy
Criterion 4: NbS are economically viable4.1. The direct and indirect benefits and costs associated with the NbS, who pays and who benefits, are identified and documented
4.2. A cost-effectiveness study is provided to support the choice of NbS including the likely impact of any relevant regulations and subsidies
4.3. The effectiveness of the NbS design is justified against available alternative solutions, taking into account any associated externalities
4.4. NbS design considers a portfolio of resourcing options such as market-based, public sector, voluntary commitments and actions to support regulatory compliance
Criterion 5: NbS are based on inclusive, transparent and empowering governance processes5.1. A defined and fully agreed upon feedback and grievance resolution mechanism is available to all stakeholders before an NbS intervention is initiated
5.2. Participation is based on mutual respect and equality, regardless of gender, age or social status, and upholds the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
5.3. Stakeholders who are directly and indirectly affected by the NbS have been identified and involved in all processes of the NbS intervention
5.4. Decision-making processes document and respond to the rights and interests of all participating and affected stakeholders
5.5. Where the scale of the NbS extends beyond jurisdictional boundaries, mechanisms are established to enable joint decisionmaking of the stakeholders in the affected jurisdictions
Criterion 6: NbS equitably balance trade-offs between achievement of their primary goal(s) and the continued provision of multiple benefits6.1. The potential costs and benefits of associated trade-offs of the NbS intervention are explicitly acknowledged and inform safeguards and any appropriate corrective actions
6.2. The rights, usage of and access to land and resources, along with the responsibilities of different stakeholders, are acknowledged and respected
6.3. The established safeguards are periodically reviewed to ensure that mutually-agreed trade-off limits are respected and do not destabilise the entire NbS
Criterion 7: NbS are managed adaptively, based on evidence7.1. A NbS strategy is established and used as a basis for regular monitoring and evaluation of the intervention
7.2. A monitoring and evaluation plan is developed and implemented throughout the intervention lifecycle
7.3. A framework for iterative learning that enables adaptive management is applied throughout the intervention lifecycle
Criterion 8: NbS are sustainable and mainstreamed within an appropriate jurisdictional context8.1. The NbS design, implementation and lessons learnt are shared to trigger transformative change
8.2. The NbS informs and enhances facilitating policy and regulation frameworks to support its uptake and mainstreaming
8.3. Where relevant, the NbS contributes to national and global targets for human well-being, climate change, biodiversity and human rights, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

Being an open guided process, the diversity of experiences and opinions contributed to deriving the global standards and made it more robust.  This standard underlines the need for the convergence into Nature and the benefits to Nature and people.  It couldn’t have come at a better time when humanity is suffering from the broken linkage with Nature.

Click here to download the document in English, French and Spanish

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