Mise à jour: 04 Nov 2021

Whether it’s food and water security, climate change, human health, disaster risk or economic development, nature can help us. Nature-based Solutions refer to a wide range of actions that address societal challenges through the protection, sustainable management and restoration of ecosystems and benefit both biodiversity and human well-being.

What are Nature-based Solutions ?

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) have been defined, in 2016, by the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC-2016-Res-069) as:

actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.

Through the multi-faceted benefits that they provide, NbS can effectively support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Harnessing nature to create solutions to the challenges set out in the SDGs can offers positive social, economic, governance and environmental outcomes.

The IUCN engages in NbS in order to use the tools that nature already provides to address issues resulting from poor land or resource use, climate change or societal challenges. Solutions often enhance existing natural or man-made infrastructure and spur long-term economic, social and environmental benefits. In addition, the IUCN developed various projects to solve challenges such as water security, which is critical for sustainable economic development, poverty reduction and climate change.

The UN Environment Programme engages with NbS in its activities on agroforestry, reforestation and afforestation programmes, landscape restoration intiatives, support to countries in their national plans for biodiversity and climate adaptation, and further work to promote the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems for enhanced biodiversity, climate and social outcomes. In particular, UNEP is conducting significant work on NbS in relation to climate change.

Find more information to understand the potential of NbS in the links below.

The Geneva Nature-based Solutions Dialogues – convened by the Geneva Environment Network and the International Union for Conservation of Nature – also provide an opportunity to learn more about NbS and their relevance to various debates ongoing in Geneva.

Nature-based Solutions Standard

The IUCN has developed a standard to facilitate the design, verification and scaling up of NbS, called the Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions. This standard aims to fill the gaps in expertise to ensure NbS projects are effectively design and implemented and do not result in unintended negative consequences. The use and promote of this standard is a core element of IUCN and its members, following a World Conservation Congress resolution adopted in September 2020 (WCC-2020-Res-060).

The NbS Agenda

2021 will be an important year to strengthen the work on NbS at the global level, through the several major conferences set to address the topic. The fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) – the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment – gathered in February 2021 and is set to reconvene in February 2022 under the theme “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”. The theme calls for strengthened action to protect and restore nature and the nature-based solutions to achieve the SDGs in its three complementary dimensions (social, economic and environmental).

Additional major upcoming negotiations that will address NbS include: the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June 2021, the G20 Environment, Climate and Energy Ministerial Meeting in July 2021, the IUCN World Congress in September 2021, the UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2021, and the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021. Discover the major past and upcoming milestones in the NbS agenda:

Sep. 2016

The IUCN World Conservation Congress is 2016 in Hawaii marked an important step for NbS with the adoption of a definitional framework for NbS, thus establishing a common definition for NbS and a series of principles to guide effective and appropriate implementation.

Sep. 2019

The UN Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General on 23 September 2019, brought great political attention to the power of Nature-based Solutions for climate and sustainable development, and underlined the growing movement for Nature.

Sep. 2020

The UN Summit on Biodiversity in New York, provided an opportunity to demonstrate ambition to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development, and thereby give momentum to the development and eventual adoption of an effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP 15).

Jan. 2021

The One Planet Summit on Biodiversity, hosted by France. Various important commitments demonstrating high ambition for nature and people were taken at the Summit.

May 2021

The UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination endorsed the "Common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development into the United Nations policy and programme planning and delivery".

June 2021

The G7 Summit in Cornwall, UK, on 11-13 June 2021, will focus on how to create a greener, and more prosperous future after the pandemic. Ministers could build on the statement adopted at the 2019 Summit on the role of NbS to achieve the SDGs and deliver multiple benefits.

Sep. 2021

The IUCN World Conservation Congress, Marseille, France, is where the world will come together to set priorities and drive conservation and sustainable development action. A dedicated NbS pavilion will host a series of events, workshops, launches and discussion groups.

Oct. 2021

The Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 15 CBD), on 11-24 October in Kunming, China, will review the achievement and delivery of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. It is also anticipated that the final decision on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework will be taken. The date will be confirmed.

Oct. 2021

The G20 2021 Rome Summit, on 30-31 October 2021, will be an opportunity to advance NbS in climate change governance, and to build on the commitment made at the 2019 Osaka Summit to "look into" NbS and ecosystem and community based approaches.

Nov. 2021

At the Twenty-Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26 UNFCCC) in Glasgow, the UK government has already pledged more funding to stem accelerating biodiversity loss that will also contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.


The Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 15) in the final quarter of 2021 aims to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

Feb. 2022

The second part of the Fifth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Nairobi, Kenya, will mobilize member states and stakeholders into sharing and implementing successful approaches and NbS that contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.


The UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is strengthening efforts to mobilize, create and drive solutions to realize the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The Conference will propel science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.


The Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction in New York, USA, will be the last of the four sessions of the Intergovernmental Conference. In 2017, the General Assembly decided to convene an Intergovernmental Conference to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030

On 1 March 2019, led by El Salvador and joined by other countries, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

The Decade aims to massively scale up restoration efforts to bring new life into degraded ecosystems. Indeed, degraded ecosystem, for example agricultural areas or wetlands, once restored with NbS, can permit to achieve local and national priorities such as food and water security or climate change mitigation, ultimately contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Decade, to be officially launched at World Environment Day, on 5 June 2021, runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The UN Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to ramp up restoration and put the world on track for a sustainable future, with contribution of numerous actors, including IUCN.

NbS in global fora

This section provides further information on discussions on NbS in international fora and existing initiatives.

NbS for Climate

Although NbS are a powerful ally to address a wide variety of societal and environmental challenges, it has received particular interest in the context of climate change. Indeed, NbS could provide around 30% of the cost-effective mitigation that is needed by 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2°C (IUCN, 2019). They also provide a powerful defense against the impacts and long-term hazards of climate change.

Specific approaches to address climate change through NbS include ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), ecosystem-based mitigation (EbM), and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR). As defined by the CBD, EbA refers to « the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change ». Healthy and well-managed ecosystems can indeed increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of people to the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather event and heat stress. Meanwhile, EbM encompasses strategies to mitigate climate change through the sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems; for example, through the sequestration and storage of carbon in healthy forests, wetlands, and coastal ecosystems.

Within the Paris Agreement, countries have engaged themselves in preparing, communicating and maintaining Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), aiming to embody their efforts to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. More than 130 countries have already included NbS actions – such as reforestation, green infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, or coastal protection – in their national climate plans. However, the global potential of NbS is far from being fully realized.

The UN Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General on 23 September 2019, brought great political attention to the power of NbS for climate and sustainable development. The NbS Coalition co-led by China and New Zealand launched the NbS for Climate Manifesto, a plan to unlock the full potential of nature for climate action, with the support of more than 70 governments, private sector, civil society and international organizations, accompanied by nearly 200 initiatives and best practices from around the world.

In line with this ambition, UNEP has been continuing the work to promote NbS as a fundamental part of any action for climate and biodiversity, and an essential component for recovery plans from the pandemic. Nature-based solutions are also central to the negotiations that will take place at the UNFCCC COP26 in November 2021 in Glasgow. The UK presidency has highlighted nature and NbS as one of five areas that needs particular attention.

This section provides additional resources on the potential of NbS in relation to climate change and existing initiatives at the global level.

NbS and Health

Nature protects our health in many ways. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the increasing negative impact of human activities on the environment severely threatens human and ecosystem health. Land use changes, expansion and intensification of agriculture, together with unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature while increasing contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. Therefore, protecting, resorting and sustainably managing ecosystems is a critical step to prevent future pandemics and safeguard our health. Similarly, NbS also support the health of city dwellers. Greening cities is an efficient way to reduce air pollution and to adapt to the increasing heat stress in cities. Urban forests and green spaces can further improve physical health, promote mental well-being and reduce stress. Learn more about the health benefits of NbS through the resources below.

NbS and Food

Food production has a massive impact on our planet. With more than half of Earth’s habitable lands currently used for agriculture, farmers and food producers play an important role in maintaining and conserving biodiversity. The loss of healthy soils reduces agricultural yields and could result in a food production shortfall of 25% by 2050. It is estimated that increasing soil biodiversity could contribute up to 2.3 billion tonnes of additional crop production per year, valued at US$1.4 trillion (IUCN, 2020). NbS are designed to improve the ecosystem services provided by nature. When deployed properly, NbS can deliver multiple benefits, including supporting agricultural production and resilience, to mitigating climate change, enhancing nature and biodiversity, and providing hydrological services. Thus, they represent a key pathway to meet the increasing demand on the food system while halting further land degradation. Discover why adopting NbS approaches to better our food systems is essential to meeting the fundamental human right to food through the links below.

NbS for Disaster Risk Reduction

Healthy ecosystems can act as a buffer against hazards and the impacts of climate change, while building resilience, sustaining livelihoods and supporting coping as well as recovery actions from disasters.  Vegetation cover can stabilise slopes, thus reducing the risk of landslides. Wetlands can help regulate floods. Coastal vegetation, sand dunes and mangroves can provide protection from storm surges, strong winds and cyclones. Healthy coral reefs can reduce wave energy during coastal storms. Therefore, the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of these ecosystems strengthen disaster and climate risk management.  Here lies the immense potential of NbS to build resilience for communities across the globe. Nature-based solutions are increasingly being recognized as an effective and cost-efficient way of reducing disaster risks, helping people adapt to climate change and building community resilience. Find out more through the resources below.

NbS in Cities

NbS are a powerful tool to enhance resilience, support sustainable development, improve the quality of life of urban citizens and safeguard biodiversity. They also provide cost-effective approaches to urban sustainability challenges. Indeed, the co-benefits they provide in terms of public health, social cohesion, or climate change mitigation, are likely to exceed the cost of implementation and maintenance. Thus, implementing NbS in cities can create win-win solutions for society, the environment and the economy. Tree-covered areas along streets or parks and wetlands, can reduce the urban heat island effect and cooling needs through natural shading, manage run-off water with fewer flooding events, and improve health and well-being, both directly and through recreational opportunities. NbS interventions around cities can also help with watershed management, recreational space, managing wildfires, improving drinking water quality, reducing, and capturing CO2 emissions, and reducing the impact of sand and dust storms. Discover the potential of NbS for urban areas through the links below.

Investments in NbS

The State of Finance of Nature, released by UNEP, WEF, ELD and Vivid Economics in May 2021, tracks global trends in public and private investment in NbS, aiming to improve data quality and identify opportunities for governments, businesses and financiers. The current investments in NbS amount to USD 133 billion (about 0.10 per cent of global GDP), most of which comes from public sources. The report calls for investments in NbS to triple by 2030 and to increase four-fold by 2050 from the current level. If the world is to meet the climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation targets, it needs to close a USD 4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050. While an increase in public funding would help plug some of the gap, there needs to be a significant increase in private sector investment in NbS.

Partner Organizations

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The IUCN promotes NbS tools and advances nature as a solution in its different projects, for example, for water infrastructure development and for the protection of communities from disasters and impacts of climate change. Moreover, the IUCN has set the global standard for NbS.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP shares inputs of initiatives and best practices from around the world, received following the global call for contributions to the NbS workstream at the Climate Action Summit.

United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD Programme)

The UN-REDD Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes and involvement of all stakeholders, promoting NbS for climate change through the conservation, the sustainable management and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR)

PEDRR is the global thematic platform of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). It seeks to promote and scale-up implementation of NbS for Disaster Risk Reduction, and ensure it is mainstreamed in development planning at global, national and local level.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

WWF works globally on promoting NbS and prioritizing actions that could have climate benefits. WWF provides practical guidance for countries to include NbS in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and develops science-based guidance for synergistic interventions, among other things.

MAVA Foundation

The MAVA Foundation supports nature conservation. It promotes NbS indirectly by underlining the value of ecosystems and biodiversity. For example, it highlights that conserving seagrass beds in West Africa, contributes to water quality, store carbon, produce oxygen, and help regulate climate and protect the coastline.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

The WBCSD is actively involved in Natural Climate Solutions (NCS), raising awareness and being part of Natural Climate Solutions Alliance and Nature4Climate. Nature4Climate is the world’s first coordinated effort to address the totality of NCS across forests, farms, grasslands and wetlands, by promoting increase policy action and investment.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

IISD launched a new global initiative with the MAVA Foundation, the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. It aims to establish the business case for investing in nature and make it easier for investors and government officials to assign a value to NbS.

World Economic Forum (WEF)

The World Economic Forum, in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), have launched the Natural Climate Solutions Alliance. It aims to scale up affordable natural climate mitigation solutions by bringing together public and private stakeholders to identify opportunities and barriers to investment into carbon credits to increase financing for natural climate solutions.

UNECE/FAO Joint Timber Section

The joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section supports support member States and regional economic integration organizations in their efforts to sustainably manage forests so that they provide forest goods and services to benefit society.

International Labour Organization

ILO published a joint report with WWF detailing how NbS can support job creation, the achievement of the SDGs, and a green recovery after the pandemic.