Nature-based solutions: Concept, opportunities and challenges
Nature-based solutions: Concept, opportunities and challenges - Briefing
Author: Didier BOURGUIGNON
Date of publication: October 2017

Nature-based solutions are actions inspired by, supported by or copied from nature that aim to help societies address a variety of environmental, social and economic challenges in sustainable ways. Most nature-based solutions do not have a single objective, but aim to bring multiple co-benefits. The concept emerged in the 2000s to promote nature as a source of solutions to challenges associated with climate change. It has been supported and broadened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and later by the European Commission.

In European Union (EU) policy, nature-based solutions are primarily addressed through the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation, which allocated approximately €185 million to the topic between 2014 and 2020. Other EU funds, estimated at €915 million per year, are also allocated to support green infrastructure projects. Other relevant policy initiatives include the 7th environment action programme, the biodiversity strategy, and the communication on green infrastructure.

Nature-based solutions can provide a number of opportunities, including: delivering multiple benefits; reducing and/or avoiding costs; contributing to job creation and the green economy; and positioning the EU as a world leader in the area. However, nature-based solutions can also pose a number of challenges, including: tackling knowledge gaps; managing trade-offs; implementing successful actions; dealing with natural elements; and financing projects.

The European Parliament has expressed support for nature-based solutions and urged Member States and the European Commission to establish a coherent network of blue-green infrastructure in rural and urban areas across the EU.