IUCN launches first-ever global nature-based solutions standard

Most engineering projects, manufacturing industries, retail operations – in fact, almost every business activity on earth – have agreed standards that underpin the safety and efficiency of those activities. To date, that has certainly not been the case for nature-based solutions – the implications of which are perhaps even more significant given how critical our ecosystems are to the survival of all life on earth.

Nature-based solutions are defined as “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”. Until now, there was no internationally recognised standard to provide guidance to the governments, businesses, communities and individuals who are responsible for deploying them in every country around the world. But hopefully that is all about to change.

Today, IUCN releases the first-ever global standard that will help mainstream nature-based solutions while protecting people and the planet. After a two-year participatory consultation process with almost a thousand people, IUCN has developed a framework for both the public and the private sector. The goal is to move towards reliable, consistent and internationally-recognised standards for planning and implementing nature-based solutions.

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The move comes at exactly the right time – at a time when the concept of nature-based solutions is gaining momentum, particularly with influential groups such as policymakers and corporations who are looking to integrate nature-based solutions into their policies, practices and investments. At the launch, the UK Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, gave one of the reasons for this growing attention: “We know that we cannot solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale,” he said. The day before, tech giant Apple announced its plans to become 100% carbon neutral by 2030 including a plan for investing in natural climate solutions.

However, while there is growing recognition of the importance of nature as a climate solution, alongside rapid decarbonization, there is still much that can be done to enhance and increase government plans to incorporate nature-based solutions into each country’s national climate plans or nationally determined contributions (NDCs). For example, only 27 out of 168 countries included nature-based solutions in the mitigation component of their NDCs, and, although growing, public climate finance for the full range of sustainable land use activities remains low.

But there are many other reasons for deploying nature-based solutions – in a way that delivers lasting benefits for people and nature, and no one knows that better than Indigenous peoples around the world who have been stewards of nature for millennia. At the launch event, Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, explained one of the reasons why: “Indigenous people hold sophisticated knowledge of natural world and this needs to be included with science to develop durable nature-based solutions.”

The launch brought together many voices from all around the world including development agencies, country ministers from a range of places and business reflecting the complexity of the issues involved in deploying nature-based solutions in the right way. It was summarised as follows: “We need a landscape approach. We have three main issues: the climate emergency and the collapse of nature and social inequities.” The IUCN standard is a critical tool in helping to build a systematic, consistent and reliable framework to address these issues in unison. And, there are still opportunities to get involved. (See the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions : first edition)

Users are encouraged to pilot the global standard for nature-based solutions in current and future applications and engage with the governance structure of standard.

Mangrove Reserve of Ogooué river. Godefroy De Bruyne
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