The discussion centred on the key role of ecosystem services and nature-based solutions and the need to tackle biodiversity and climate change together in order to achieve national and international sustainability targets. Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems. Nature-based solutions are solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, are cost-effective while at the same time offering ecological, social and economic advantages, and contribute to heightening resilience. They underscore the vital role of nature and the need to protect it and its crucial importance in combating the climate crisis. Particularly the clear declaration of this insight at the 15th UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) in Kunming a few weeks prior placed it on all political agendas around the world, thus making it a central topic of the COP26 deliberations in Glasgow.
The discussion at our side event also clearly emphasised the value of nature-based solutions for achieving the Paris climate targets. However, it also highlighted how many obstacles stand in the way of realising this potential. For instance, the socioeconomic benefit of nature-based solutions needs to be better understood and communicated to the general public and municipal politics. Sensitising these stakeholders for this aspect is vital for attaining support and acceptance.
As a further obstacle, the side event participants identified the fact that nature-based solutions are still regarded by municipal politicians as too risky because these solutions cannot be associated with a concrete return on investment. This is because the value of nature-based solutions is hard to quantify due to the lack of suitable performance indicators. No systematic method to measure their value exists. Consequently, integrating them better in project plans and strategies would also bring them a great step closer to implementation.
Essentially, the primary task is to adequately support municipalities in implementing nature-based solutions both politically and financially. As the panel members of this COP26 side event clearly explained, this also means that the role of regional and local government must be given greater weight within the context of the nationally determined contributions. In general, there is a lot of catching-up to do here, as visibility of the work that municipalities perform in development cooperation is too low.