5th July, 13:30pm - 15:30pm BST - Natural History Museum (NHM) Lecture Theatre
Rutgers University & IUCN

Session summary

Session 2, Defining NbS: solutions for whom, by whom, and for what?, began with Angela Andrade and Mathias Bertram reviewing the history and development of related concepts which preceded NbS on the international stage and in the CBD, most notably the Ecosystem-based Approach. They discussed the emergence of NbS, a term first coined by the World Bank, initially defined by the IUCN, and more recently formally defined and adopted by the UNEA. Both Ecosystem-based Approaches and NbS recognize the interconnections and feedbacks between the global societal challenges and the importance in approaching them holistically to avoid trade-offs.

“At the core of NbS is the web of life including people and their culture” – Angela Andrade.

The opportunities presented by NbS were highlighted, in particular that they presents a holistic problem solving approach that is building bridges between the SDG Agenda 2030 and the Rio Conventions, and is already widely being integrated in national policy processes (eg. Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) & National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). NbS are also a powerful communication and mainstreaming tool, reaching those outside the biodiversity community, and they offer opportunities for joint financing action.

However, all speakers described key concerns around actions incorrectly badged as NbS, including:

  • The misuse of NbS as a carbon offsetting option.
  • A lack of stakeholder and rightsholder involvement.
  • An over-focus on restoration, afforestation and a ‘tyranny of trees’.
  • The risk of marginalisation and green gentrification in urban areas.
  • Reinforcement of asymmetrical power dynamics.
  • A lack of robust monitoring for carbon, biodiversity and social benefits.
  • Repeating the mistakes of REDD+ (e.g. human rights violations and forced displacement in the name of climate change and/or conservation);
  • Slippage through ineffective solutions.

Marina Melanidis identified two contrasting narratives around NbS. One is around ‘leveraging the power of nature’, suggesting that NbS are powerful and must play a critical role in addressing challenges. The other is the ‘dangerous distraction’ narrative, arguing that NbS are diverting attention from systemic change. Existing power dynamics will be reinforced by these narratives unless we meaningfully address this second narrative; clearly prioritising the rights and leadership of IPLCs, and communicating in a way that reflects major shifts in our values.

Beth Turner then presented recent research on the need to recognise that the multiple benefits that flow from nature arise from the interaction between people and nature, and that people and nature exist as part of a socio-ecological system, shaped by complex interactions and feedback loops. She discussed how these interactions in turn have important effects on social-ecological resilience and hence on the sustainability and effectiveness of a nature-based intervention. This understanding of the reciprocal relationships between people and nature has long been an integral part of the worldview of IPLCs across the globe. Building on this, Helen Tugendhat emphasised how the transformative change needed to upscale NbS requires that the tenure rights and free prior and informed consent of IPLCs be fully respected.

Key take-homes

  • Durable credibility of NbS requires consideration of competing narratives based on power dynamics
  • NbS have the potential to deliver transformative change when operationalized effectively, diverse values considered and enabling conditions are created
  • Inclusive governance and equitable design, implementation and sharing of costs and benefits are required


  • Pamela McElwee's photo

    Pamela McElwee

    Professor of Human Ecology at Rutgers University

    Pamela McElwee is Professor of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. She has served as a lead author for the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land and is a co-chair of the upcoming IPBES “nexus” assessment on the interlinkages between biodiversity, water, food, climate and health. She is also co-lead of the Thematic Group on Cultural Practices and Ecosystem Management for the Commission on Ecosystem Management, IUCN.

  • Angela Andrade's photo

    Angela Andrade

    Senior Climate Change and Biodiversity Policy Director, Conservation International – Colombia. Chair IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management

    Download slides PDF

    Origins, definitions and future of NbS

    Angela Andrade is the Director of Environmental Policy at Conservation International-Colombia and also serves as the Vice President of the Global Commission on Ecosystem Management of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2008. Angela has been responsible for leading important initiatives associated with ecosystem-based adaptation and building resilience to face Climate Change, and has published major papers such as The Application of the Ecosystem Approach to Planning and Project Development.

  • Beth Turner's photo

    Beth Turner

    Doctoral Researcher at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)

    Download slides PDF

    Nature-based solutions: interdependent social-ecological systems for resilience to global changes

    Beth is a researcher with expertise in ecology, biodiversity, and social-ecological systems. For the past several years she has been part of the Nature-based Solutions Initiative researching the role of nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation and other development goals. She is also currently pursuing her doctoral studies at Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada, investigating how community-led forest management can promote climate-resilience of forests and local forest-dependent communities.

  • Helen Tugendhat's photo

    Helen Tugendhat

    Programme Coordinator, Forest Peoples Programme

    Download slides PDF

    Perspectives of Indigenous People and Local Communities on NbS

    Helen works with the Forest Peoples Programme, a human rights organization that works to create political space for indigenous and forest peoples to secure their rights, control their lands and decide their own futures. Helen has worked for over 20 years providing policy advice to indigenous peoples and communities on conservation policy and practice, from the 2003 World Parks Congress in Durban onwards, and on the application of international human rights frameworks to defend local and national recognition of rights. She is particularly interested in supporting indigenous-led conservation initiatives based on secure tenure, in addition to rights-based approaches to other forms of biodiversity protection.

  • Mathias Bertram's photo

    Mathias Bertram

    Advisor Global Biodiversity Framework at GIZ

    Download slides PDF

    NbS from a biodiversity policy perspective: opportunities, concerns and their relationship with other terms under the CBD

    Mathias is advisor in the GIZ division environment, climate change and infrastructure, supporting the German Federal Ministry for Environment (BMUV) in the CBD negotiations with a particular focus on post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the interface between biodiversity conservation and climate change, in particular Nature-based Solutions. His background is International Forest Management. For the last 15 years, his work focused on sustainable forest management, nature-based solutions and related concepts such as ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) and disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) and mitigation (REDD+) with a regional focus on SE-Asia and Latin America. He is also member of the IUCN international standard committee for the global NbS standard.

  • Marina Melanidis's photo

    Marina Melanidis

    Founder and Development Director of Youth4Nature

    Download slides PDF

    Leveraging the Power of Nature, or Dangerous Distraction? Narratives, coalitions, and a youth perspective on Nature-based Solutions

    Marina (she/her) is a climate justice activist, a youth mobilizer, a social scientist, and a Greek-Canadian settler based in what is currently called Vancouver, BC. She has over a decade of experience in youth climate activism and is the Founder and Development Director of Youth4Nature. Marina holds an MSc from the University of British Columbia, where her work concerns narratives and perceptions of nature-based solutions, and how we can better foster holistic conservation models that work for climate, nature, and people.

  • Henk Nieboer's photo

    Henk Nieboer

    Director at EcoShape

    Download slides PDF

    Building with Nature: an engineer’s perspective on Nature-based Solutions

    Henk is director of EcoShape: Building with Nature and owner and director of Adaelta. He has extensive professional experience in coastal and river engineering, land reclamation and water management. In Witteveen+Bos he worked for 32 years as geotechnical, coastal engineer and port engineer, project manager for flood defenses and land reclamation works, head of business unit and member of the board of directors.