It is the opening day of COP 23 and the streets of Bonn, Germany are full with negotiators, observers, activists and students. Local fanfare shows a dedication to this climate conference with art installations, an illuminated ferris wheel and a giant inflated globe. After registering I met with my client, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who is hosting an event at the nearby German Development Institute. The event features a number of experts promoting the utilization of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) techniques. These techniques promote using natural strategies in increasing human resilience to climate change, such as planting mangroves instead of building a sea wall.

Presentation on quantifying the benefits of Ecosystem-based adaptation

An introduction by Mr. Felix Ries began the discussion by focusing on two main points, communicating the benefits of ecosystem-based approaches and developing financing strategies. In communication, Mr. Reis proposes demonstrating the benefits of EbA through the combination of telling stories and providing numbers, through case studies and economic analysis. For financing the German Ministry of the Environment’s International Climate Initiative (IKI) has committed 150 million euro to EbA, including a record amount in 2016. Although private sector options remain a struggle, microfinancing presents an option. Further, the GCF has included a result area for ‘’increased resilience of ecosystems and ecosystem services.”

Currently 73% of NDCs feature nature-based approaches and 50% have commitments towards EbA, but only 8% set targets. This discrepancy is due in large part to the difficulty of quantifying EbA actions into measurable targets. Many of the targets that are seen are in the forestry sector in terms of acres restored, and agroforestry is the most utilized EbA activity. When surveying countries protecting nature is a top 5 reason for enacting adaptation strategies, listed above human health. In low to middle income countries, EbA is used more than grey infrastructure. Moving forward IUCN hopes to help extend EbA approaches from NDCs into NAPs and NAPAs.

A successful EbA project in Peru demonstrated the importance of of connecting adaptation with other industries. This project utilized the culinary to engage the government and indigenous communities in the preservation of vital crops. The success of this project drove regional adoption of EbA strategies in Brazil. Mexico will utilize this industry engaging approach with the ADAPtour project to begin this year. Mexico’s large tourism industry faces the dangers of increased hurricanes and decreasing biodiversity, leading to this project engaging the private sector.

Engaging communities is critical to the success of adaptation projects, and a primary way to address through community priorities is through the food supply. EbA can be eaten in many instances, and this can drive a bottom up implementation technique from the community level through national policy. This strategy is effective in Large Ocean Countries – nations which are often identified as small islands of land mass, but with large areas of ocean. This region is often used as a petri dish for new technologies, and will benefit by re-including women in conservation.

To conclude the event with a marketplace of ideas, several poster projects were presented, addressing concerns over visualizing EbA benefits, enacting behavioral change, communicating evidence effectively, and developing criteria and standards.

As the COP moves forward, EbA and other nature-based approaches will continue to be a focal point for my client. In other realms the overarching themes of community engagement, bottom-up project management, and engaging private industry will continue to be featured throughout the conference.