Nature-based solutions in the Nordic Region: New report takes stock and points the way forward
Nature-based solutions are growing more common in the Nordic Region, but there is still plenty of unexploited potential – and not just for the climate and biodiversity. Factors such as the economy, health and psychological well-being also come into play when assessing the total benefit of a nature-based solution, according to several conclusions in the recent report Working with Nature-Based Solutions, which maps their use in the Nordic countries. And this is an area in which the Nordic Region lags behind certain other parts of the world.
In order to catch up, two of the report’s recommendations are more monitoring and bigger and more comprehensive cost-benefit analyses of projects involving nature-based solutions.
“As things stand, it is difficult to see the links between the climate, nature and human well-being and assess the total value of a nature-based solution versus a technical one. To encourage more nature-based solutions, we ought to remove the barriers that prevent some from choosing them," says Irene Lindblad, head of the steering group for the Nordic Council of Ministers' Nature-based Solutions in the Nordic Region programme, which published the report.
Nature-based solutions have multiple advantages. They help us address the climate challenge, either by binding CO2 to stop the climate changing or by making society more resilient in the event of extreme weather, which improves biodiversity. They also help improve human well-being.
Recent years have seen greater focus on the impact of nature-based solutions, and the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have all identified nature-based solutions as the answer to up to one-third of the biodiversity and climate challenges the world faces today.
Nature-based solutions tackle the negative effects of human activity on the climate and biodiversity. They protect, restore and ensure the sustainable management of our ecosystems – and they work.
Irene Lindblad explains:
“Nature-based solutions have multiple advantages. They help us address the climate challenge, either by binding CO2 to stop the climate changing or by making society more resilient in the event of extreme weather, which improves biodiversity. They also help improve human well-being. Studies show that we thrive best when we are in touch with nature, and nature-based solutions provide us with greater access to nature and biodiversity. And they actually help tackle other social problems like pollution.
The theme of last year's Nordic Council Environment Prize was nature-based solutions. Marienhamn Stad in Åland was named the winner for the restoration of the capital's wetlands, which protect Marienhamn from flooding, cleanse wastewater and serve as a popular recreational area for local people. Other tangible examples of successful nature-based solutions are listed in the report and on the Environment Prize website.
Nordic standards are needed
To support the rollout of nature-based solutions, Nordic standards are needed. The report concludes that nature-based solutions need to be streamlined at policy and practical levels. This will help make them the rule rather than the exception, as is currently the case.
The report Working with Nature-Based Solutions was written by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) in collaboration with Aarhus University, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), the Agricultural University of Iceland and Lund University. It was published as part of the four-year programme Nature-based Solutions in the Nordic Region.
Eight pilot projects
In spring 2022, the Nature-based Solutions programme funded eight pilot projects. They span several countries and categories of nature-based solutions and will explore what works and what can be done differently when it comes to local food production, shoring up work on riverbanks and waterfronts, removing excess phosphorus from seawater, establishing forests and wetlands, building brushwood fences and restoring landscapes.
Nordic co-operation is seeking to make the Nordic Region the most sustainable in the world by 2030. As part of this work, the Council of Ministers has allocated DKK 26 million to a four-year programme on nature-based solutions. The programme consists of five projects and runs from 2021 to 2024.