Catalysing policy innovation for NBS

Published 16.06.2020 , last updated 17.09.2023

The European Commission is investing considerably in Nature-based Solutions (NBS) and green growth, with the goal of positioning Europe as a leader for ‘innovation with nature’. However, in the disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) sectors, there is still poor application of NBS policies, especially at national and local level. What changes are needed to help catalyse policy adoption and innovation for NBS?

This is one of the topics addressed in the PHUSICOS (WP5 on Policy Innovation) Policy Business Forum that launched its activities in March 2020. The Forum aims at proposing new ideas for governance and policy structures that can lead to greater success on the acceptance and implementation of NBS.

The members – NBS experts and other knowledgeable stakeholders – are involved in the forum deliberations in various ways, including interviews, surveys, web meetings/e-consultations, and workshops. The first e-workshop was held on the 24th of March 2020.

Participants identified several barriers to NBS implementation as well as policy options for overcoming them and for promoting innovation. The results of the workshop are summarised in the Synthesis.

Three key messages that emerged from these discussions are:

Promoting “hard” instruments in European policies

To date, many EU policy mechanisms enabling NBS remain voluntary with no legal obligations to comply. “Hard” instruments, e.g. making NBS compulsory elements of landscape planning, could be further promoted. An example is the protection of a proportion of land for forest cover in member states. Also, to catalyse new policy adoption there are still knowledge gaps, e.g. demonstration of NBS transferability, effectiveness at larger scales and quantification of co-benefits. Another relevant point is that NBS multifunctionality should be better embedded in the assessment of CCA and DRR options.

Merging green and grey funding streams at the EU and national levels

NBS often require expensive land acquisition, making upscaling difficult. This could be addressed with innovative funding mechanisms (e.g. Payment for Ecosystem Services). Participants also noted a lack of balance between funding for green and grey solutions due in large part also to separate funding streams. One possible solution is to merge conflicting funding streams into single DRR programs that prioritize NBS approaches. 

Empowering the local level

There are limited guidelines to support NBS implementation at small scales. This leads to a growth of single and isolated solutions that are not strategically planned and integrated at larger scales. Participants agreed that finding the right instruments and identifying powerful actions to empower the local level is a priority. NBS knowledge hubs may be an effective model. They may ideally include a university or research institute, solution providers (such as businesses or local authorities), and NGO/civil society representatives.

If you would like to be involved in the future activities of the Policy Business Forum please contact:

Link to the Synthesis document.

News item prepared by Anna Scolobig (UNIGE), Juliette Martin (IIASA) and Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer (IIASA)