Innovating with nature to create positive impacts for society

On 6 November 2017, the EOS Secretariat participated in an event organized by Benedek Jávor, Member of the European Parliament, and the IUCN (International Union for Consevation of Nature) European Regional Office. The event was about Nature-based Solutions for more sustainable and resilient societies, and was organized in partnership with the Estonian EU Presidency and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation.  The event exhibited opportunities for innovating with nature and creating new partnerships for action on Nature-based Solutions in Europe.

Nature-based Solutions (NBS) are cost-effective solutions for climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, health, and other societal challenges which also benefit biodiversity. They refer to the sustainable management and use of nature for tackling societal challenges such as climate change, water security, food security, human health, and disaster risk management. They can involve a range of actions, from protecting pristine nature, to managing modified ecosystems, and even creating new ones such as green roofs.

Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN European Regional Office emphasized in his opening words that they are inspiring solutions with a range of co-benefits, but knowledge gaps (later in the event it was emphasized that science still does not understand many things about NBSs therefore appropriate resources to improve knowledge must be individuated, particularly to monitor environmental impact of NBSs in the medium- and long-term) and challenges remain, such as policy coherence and scaling up by making a robust case for investment in NBS. According to Benedek Jávor other important aspects in implementing NBS are the participation of local stakeholders in their development, taking into account natural land management practices and avoiding harmful subsidies (during the event, participants emphasize that in the first phase, to help the sector take off, some targeted subsidies may be envisaged. The importance of green public procurement was also stressed).

Ado Lõhmus, Deputy Director of the Estonian Ministry of Environment, presented the outcomes of the flagship EU Presidency conference ‘Nature-based Solutions from innovation to common use’, highlighting that Europe can become a leader on NBS, with effective communication, collaboration and concrete business models based on sound science and exchange of best practices and case studies. During the event, the results of an interesting survey were shared with the audience. According to the survey, 83% of Europeans favour nature-based solutions, while 60% favour them over technological solutions.

Finally, Birgit de Boissezon, Head of the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources unit in the European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, listed five action points: 1) mainstreaming NBS across policy areas (emphasizing the link with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is vital) and policy levels; 2) creating an NBS community of innovators and practitioners; 3) developing a comprehensive and robust NBS data, assessment and knowledge base by clearly stressing both opportunities and limitations; 4) moving from pilot to scale through NBS demonstration projects, facilitating long-term investments and 5) fostering international cooperation.

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