UNESCO: Spotlight on nature-based solutions

Sometimes, the solution to a problem can be lying right under our nose. Dunes serve as natural buffers to climate change, for instance, by breaking the strength of the wind and waves that can cause erosion and damage coastal infrastructure. That is why UNESCO began working with scientists, local management committees and the wider population four years ago to restore coastal areas in the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve in Italy.

UNESCO photo

This was one of the many case study to restore natural habitats throughout Europe discussed at an international conference hosted by UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 13-16 December on the theme of nature-based solutions for hydrometeorological risks. 

The conference marked the end of a project funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework and involving UNESCO which had used research and innovation between 2019 and 2022 to highlight the many ways in which nature-based solutions could reduce environmental risks in rural areas.

The project was named OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage hydro-meteo risks (OPERANDUM). 

Researchers used sites across Europe which they called ‘open-air laboratories’ to demonstrate the importance of taking an inclusive approach that acknowledged the need to involve diverse stakeholders and combine scientific knowledge with local and indigenous knowledge.  

The term ‘nature-based solutions’ is still a fairly new concept. The United Nations Environment Assembly only defined this term in September 2022.

That is why the December conference offered a timely opportunity to establish a common understanding of how to leverage nature-based solutions around the world and overcome the regulatory and policy barriers to their implementation. 

The December conference attracted a wide range of participants: international policy-makers from UNESCO and representatives of the European Commission, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Project leaders from OPERANDUM attended but also senior researchers and project leaders from other EU-funded projects.