Adopting nature based solutions to tackle environmental challenges

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The Ministers of Environment and other leaders across the globe had gathered on strengthening environmental multilateralism to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution.

One of the negotiating resolutions is Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), which is a means to use natural systems, such as forests, wetlands, and oceans, to address societal challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, and human well-being.

The nature based solutions harness the natural world’s ability to provide ecosystem services, such as reforestation and afforestation efforts, wetland restoration and conservation and green infrastructure such as green roofs and green walls.

Others are ecological restoration of degraded lands, ocean conservation and marine protected areas and urban forestry and tree planting initiatives

The Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, had said having a universally agreed definition of nature-based solutions is important.

“When countries and companies claim that their actions are supporting nature-based solutions, we can now begin to assess whether this is accurate and what it entails. This is especially true given the just-released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the need to scale-up adaptation, for which nature-based solutions will be crucial,” she said.

However, UNEP has noted that implementing resilient nature-based solutions successfully and monitoring their results requires the right tools and knowledge.

“By working with nature, emissions can be reduced by up to 11.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, over 40 per cent of what is needed to limit global warming.”

Also, that approximately $133 billion per year currently flows into nature-based solutions, with public funds making up 86 per cent and private finance 14 per cent. But more urgent action is needed.

It further said to unlock the full potential of nature and pave the way for the success of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, greater investment is needed in what nature does best: self-healing.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Environment, Dr. Iziaq Adekunle Salako speaking at the side event of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) Nigeria co-hosted with Costa Rica, said Nigeria is a strong advocate of nature-based solutions, which offer a cost-effective way to address global environmental, economic, climate and societal challenges.

He said: “One of the key components of Nigeria’s Great Green Wall programme is the establishment of a 1,359 km contiguous shelterbelt from Kebbi State in the northwest to Borno State in the northeast, which serves as a windbreak. The results of this important work speak for itself and show how greatly this initiative benefits our national efforts.”

“As of today, thanks to the Great Green Wall program, in Nigeria 7.6 million plants and seedlings were produced, 2,801 hectares of land  reforested, 373 hectares of multipurpose gardens were created, 1,205 people trained and 1,396 jobs created,” he said.

The minister also noted that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) established by the Nigerian government with one of its key mandates being to restore oil degraded mangroves is using nature based solutions.

“So far, HYPREP has produced a contextual manual for mangrove restoration in the Niger Delta, delineated 3000 hectares for mangrove restoration, rehabilitated 460 hectares of mangrove and is expected to plant 10 million of mangrove seedlings over the next 3 years,” he said.

He explained that the Great Green Wall and the mangrove restoration project are setting bold precedents of how nature-based solutions can deliver multiple benefits for nature and people by restoring biodiversity; helping communities to adapt to climate change; providing food and water security; and bringing peace, jobs, and sustainability to the region.

“Nigeria’s vision and that of the president of my country is to ensure that the World truly unites and responds to the biodiversity and climate crises as one,” he said.

The minister, however, called on all of to become bold champions of nature-based solutions, ambitious, innovative and disruptive

The Director of Ibrahim Usman Jibril Institute for the Built Environment, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Professor Nasiru Medugu Idris told Daily Trust that the use of nature based solution (NBS) is still the best towards protecting our environment.

He said NBS involve working with nature, as part of nature, to address societal challenges, supporting human well-being and biodiversity locally and the approach include the protection, restoration or management of natural and semi natural ecosystems. 

“Regarding the GGW, agro forestry programme is still the best approach in greening our environment and for Ogoni clean-up, the recommendation by the UNEP report still stands out as the best and this should be continued in terms of implementation,” he said. 

Meanwhile, an Environmental Activist, Nnimmo Bassey said the label “Nature based solution” sounds very good but they should not be carried away by it.

“Ordinarily, it should mean using nature to solve socio-environmental problems. It could be used to tackle biodiversity loss, for example. The problem is that it can also be a cover up for undesirable actions including for example the use of monocultures or non native tree species to mitigate climate change,” he said.

Bassey, who is also the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation explained that forests and plantations used for carbon monoxide credits can equally be classified as nature based solutions but that plantations can also lead to displacement of communities.

“These and other concepts like “nature positive” or “net zero” are often used as solutions whereas they are used to basically give polluters license to pollute.”

He however said, it is not clear how HYPREP applies nature based solutions in their work. “If their definition is that they are using natural remediation techniques that do not rely on artificial or chemical applications that may be acceptable.

“For instance, there is nothing wrong with labeling actions taken to restore mangroves in previously contaminated areas as a nature based solution. The moment such actions are intended for use as carbon offsets or for carbon trading/credits it becomes a false climate solution,” he said..

Bassey maintained that solutions of sorts are not what we need if they are aimed at obtaining carbon credits. “Our environment needs to be preserved, but not in exchange for someone to continue polluting.”

He warned that the government as well as citizens must be wary of terminologies that they have not seriously interrogated.

“We must carefully study the origins and originators of such concepts, no matter how beautiful they may sound. Who coined the term and why? What are their intentions? Who is reaping benefits from them? Who is suffering the negative impacts? Other concepts that we should be careful about include the blue economy, which opens up our water bodies for exploitation activities that could pose negative impacts to communities that depend on such water bodies,” he said.


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