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Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) for Climate Resilience – Focus on Coastal Ecosystem and Communities

More than 600 million people (10% of the world’s population) live within 60 kilometres of a coast. Half of the world’s population lives in coastal areas less than 10 meters above sea level. Coastal regions worldwide will see a continuous rise in sea-level rise throughout the 21st century contributing to severe floods, besides sea erosion. By 2050, land that currently shelters roughly 300 million people will have fallen below the average annual coastal flood elevation, putting them at risk of severe flooding at least once a year. By 2100, land occupied by 200 million people could be permanently submerged under the high tide line, leaving coastal areas uninhabitable. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are highly vulnerable to climate change and disasters. Because of their small size, remoteness, and sensitivity to natural hazards, they face the most frequent environmental concerns, even though they contribute less to climate change.

Nature based solutions have the potential to unlock effective, mitigative and adaptive climate action measures. Coastal nature-based solutions, according to studies, can alleviate flood and storm damage more effectively and are more resilient than grey infrastructure alone. UNEP has identified nature-based solutions as locally appropriate measures that protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems to solve concerns such as climate change and give human well-being and biodiversity benefits. Natural systems like mangroves, reefs, floodplains, and saltwater marshes have been crucial to national and local economies and livelihoods. Research has shown that buffer coastlines absorb wave energy, reduce erosion, and help coastal communities become more resilient. Coastal nature-based solutions are cost-effective, and more importantly, they have several co-benefits like carbon sequestration, improved water quality, erosion reduction, habitat preservation, and support for the recreation and tourism industries. For example, seawalls are barriers or embankments built to keep the sea from intruding on or eroding land. Building coastal protection structures like sea walls could be a possible solution to these problems.

In Bangladesh, the Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change via Coastal Afforestation (CBACC-CF) initiative (Bangladesh’s first National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) project within the GEF-UNDP portfolio), is implemented in four coastal districts by the government. Bangladesh is bordered by vulnerable coastal areas where the frequency and severity of weather events aggravated by climate change are considerable. The project has planted 9,650 hectares of mangroves, which will absorb around 965,000 tonnes of carbon each year. Following the ‘Forest, Fish, Fruit’ (FFF) paradigm, which also incorporates fish nursery ponds between the trees in the area, the programme primarily consists of reforesting the coastline with various types of mangroves interspersed with wood and fruit trees.

According to the first-ever assessment of global funding for nature-based solutions by WRI and Climate Finance Advisors, despite growing interest and awareness in nature-based solutions for adaptation, this has not yet translated into adequate financial support for developing countries. A new study shows that just about 1.5% of all public international climate financing has promoted nature-based adaptation strategies in impoverished countries. Although public funding for these initiatives is beginning to rise, it is insufficient to match the growing need for nature-based adaptation options. Bilateral and multilateral funding is also essential for attracting much-needed private capital.

Stakeholders can play a vital role in implementing effective nature-based solution strategies as follows:

  • Local governments– Creating frameworks for disaster/climate risk reduction and enhancing private investments, safeguarding the voice, and ensuring participation of marginalized communities and women in the decision-making process around resilience.
  • National governments– National governments also play a vital role in providing finance and facilitating private investments for coastal resilience. While international climate funding is essential and can be catalytic, national governments will offer the most immediate and often largest sources of public finance for coastal zone protection, including collaborating with insurance firms and regional risk pools such as CCRIF (Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility) and ARC (African Risk Capacity).
  • Investors– Investors need to become aware of the risks of unsustainable coastal infrastructure and invest more in resilient coastal communities and infrastructure that will be more robust. From 2020 to 2030, investing US$1.8 trillion globally in five priority sectors might provide US$7.1 trillion in overall benefits. Early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, enhanced dryland agriculture crop production, global mangrove protection, and water resource resilience projects are the five focus areas. Also, Spending $800 million on early warning systems in developing nations could save $3–16 billion per year in climate-related catastrophic losses.