Nature-based solutions and their socio-economic benefits for Europe’s recovery

This briefing provides an overview of the wide range of socio-economic benefits that nature-based solutions can achieve alongside addressing the intertwined climate change and biodiversity loss crises.

The briefing highlights the central role these solutions can play in achieving the EU’s 2030 commitments and describes the obstacles that have so far prevented their wider integration into EU policy. It also identifies recommendations to enhance their uptake.

Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions have been gaining recent attention as effective solutions to address important global challenges. As the world battles with the COVID-19 crisis, increased awareness on its link to the exploitation of nature is generating momentum towards improving our relationship with nature.

This shift is urgently needed as a range of recent reports draw attention to continued, unprecedented decline in biodiversity, both globally and in EuropeMoreover, protecting and restoring nature is key to tackling climate change. Therefore, solutions that harness the power of nature can create opportunities that help achieve both biodiversity and climate objectives.   

As countries start designing and implementing pathways to recover from the pandemic, nature-based solutions can provide the necessary sustainable, cost-effective, win-win solutions. Crucially, as outlined in the briefing, these solutions can help societies recover from the devastating social and economic impacts of COVID-19 by creating economic opportunities, employment, and multiple public health and wellbeing benefits.  

Nature-based solutions can help mitigate the impacts of the economic crisis arising from COVID-19. Nature-based activities can create new, green jobs and enhance existing nature dependent sectors. Meanwhile, greening cities can make areas more attractive to investors creating new business opportunities. Additionally, nature-based solutions can decrease public health costs through their health co-benefits. Green infrastructure and vegetation not only contribute to decreasing pollution thereby reducing associated health risks, but also promote healthier lifestyles and improve mental healthBy ensuring a fair distribution of these benefits, nature-based solutions can also help achieve social and environmental justice goals that are particularly relevant post-COVID-19.  

Nature also has a crucial role in helping us adapt to the new climate reality and minimise its potentially devastating impacts. Nature-based solutions can contribute to disaster risk reduction, build resilient cities, improve water management and contribute to long-term food security.   

Nature-based solutions are vital to achieving the EU’s 2030 commitments on climate action and biodiversity. However, various bottlenecks have hindered their large-scale uptake. These include implementation delays, a lack of mainstreaming across policy areas and sectors, a lack of centralised and comparable data, a lack of binding commitments and inadequate biodiversity and climate proofing of national and regional plans. 

The EU has an important role to play in promoting nature-based solutions and unlocking their multiple benefitsTo enhance the uptake of nature-based solutions, the EU must: 

  • Accelerate implementation of key EU legal commitments 
  • Adopt ambitious EU legislation for mandatory ecosystem restorationincluding targets for increasing progress on commitments under existing legislation and creating national nature restoration plans.
  • Boost investment for nature-based solutionsby using public investment as leverage for private investment, integrating biodiversity commitments in post-COVID-19 responses and EU climate policy, and increasing the prioritisation of the use of European Structural and Investment Funds towards biodiversity objectives.  

The European Green Deal creates a great opportunity to implement these recommendations. The Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the new Adaptation strategy are especially relevant to mainstream and strengthen nature-based solutions which meet biodiversity and climate objectives while delivering significant socio-economic goals.  

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