Category: Development

How National Development Banks can drive climate-smart solutions in cities during COVID-19 and beyond

How National Development Banks can drive climate-smart solutions in cities during COVID-19 and beyond

By Priscilla Negreiros

No economy can achieve resilient and climate-smart economic growth without empowered cities. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of cities is greater than ever. Urban areas will be severely impacted by the current crisis, with drastic economic consequences in the medium to long term in addition to the significant human and social losses. Cities have a higher risk of spreading diseases due to high-density population. They also serve as travel hubs, increasing transmission rates and are home for many vulnerable populations, which – particularly in developing countries – often live in informal settlements with little or no access to sanitation and hygiene facilities.

Despite this, cities cannot lose momentum in addressing the global threat of climate change, which could have an even greater impact on the economy in the long term. Before COVID-19, cities were already in need of more investment to face the climate emergency, and now they are losing substantial revenues from locally generated sources and are needing to divert funds elsewhere. Cities need urgent access to credit, and National Development Banks (NDBs) can help.

NDBs are an important development tool during economic crises. Historically, NDBs were created to fund post-war reconstruction in Europe (e.g. KfW in Germany) or to boost industrialization in developing economies (e.g. BNDES in Brazil). They all share the same principle of supporting national governments to counteract the pro-cyclical nature of the private financial system. Throughout the 2007/08 economic crisis, NDBs played a vital role when commercial bankers rationed credit and reduced global investments.

Although NDBs vary in size, performance, and objectives, they often have a unique capacity to reach sectors not sufficiently funded by private financial institutions, such as green infrastructure, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. This makes them a relevant actor in the global development agenda. Taking into account the increasingly central role of cities as drivers of economic growth and as part of the global response to climate change, NDBs should substantially increase their investment in projects led by cities.

According to the recent think piece published by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance about the role of NDBs in city-level climate finance, NDBs have potential to unlock needed investment into cities as they: (1) have a generally singular domestic focus with a deep understanding of national and regional investment challenges and opportunities; (2) can utilize public and private funding sources, providing state guarantees to cheaper access to markets; (3) have the advantage of financing in local currency; (4) can pool different types of funding in blended finance structures and catalyze private sector investment.

So, why are NDBs not doing more to address cities’ needs?

NDBs are not a viable option for every city. Even estimating the number of NDBs is a difficult endeavour. Yet, most of the approximately 250 existing NDBs worldwide are found in middle-income countries (60%), while only 8% are located in low-income countries, and around 30% in high-income countries. Likewise, most NDBs are small, except for the ones in China, Germany, Brazil, India, and South Africa, which hold approximately three-fifths of the USD 5 trillion in assets estimated as being held by NDBs (considerably more than the just under USD 1 trillion held by Multilateral Development Banks [MDBs).

The structure of an NDB can also vary greatly. Some are fully owned by national governments, while others are semi-private; some have wide mandates, while some are specialized in one sector; and some NDBs are more or less independent from government-controlled boards. All of these factors influence how NDBs establish their mandates, most not having clear programs to promote and identify climate-resilient infrastructure projects, let alone urban-related ones. Also, legal constraints and political disputes might disengage municipal governments from using these funding sources.

Yet, there are good reasons to think that NDBs should provide critical support to cities. For that to happen, some actions must be taken to increase the role of NDBs in urban-resilient and climate-smart investment.

NDBs can start by addressing climate-related investments in their mandates and/or strategies, including for climate-smart urban infrastructure. Reviewing mandates and setting climate and resilient urban targets will not necessarily generate an instantaneous change, but it will certainly support the translation of plans into concrete project pipelines. National governments must make sure the regulatory framework conditions are in place to allow subnational entities to access NDBs. The collaboration between NDBs and their relevant national and local governments is the key to success.

Also, NDBs must strengthen their technical capacity to assist cities in structuring projects by developing and deploying product offerings that suit cities’ needs, such as project preparation facilities and risk mitigation mechanisms. Most cities lack the required capacity to manage projects, lead infrastructure procurement, and identify climate finance instruments. Although there are many urgent projects in the pipeline, particularly in adaptation measures, city-level projects are commonly identified as “non-bankable” by investors.

Cities must have access to project preparation facilities that can assist in building feasibility studies and scaling the needed finance. By investing in project preparation assistance and risk mitigation instruments, NDBs can be an important partner for increasing the number of bankable projects, which would help to respond to the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Another solution: NDBs should increase their access to concessional development finance by seeking accreditation and support from Multilateral Development Banks. This would allow NDBs to provide cities with the needed grants for technical assistance in project preparation and guarantees, and to lend at concessional rates and for longer durations.

Cities will face one of the biggest challenges of the century in the coming months and years: they will have to repair their economies while fighting for the health of their people and climate. While all actors in this equation will be essential, NDBs will have a large role to play as key city-level support.

The think piece on “Enhancing the Role of National Development Banks in Supporting Climate-Smart Urban Infrastructure” released by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance can be read here.


Cover photo by Barbara Buchner
Heat Resilient Cities: Measuring benefits of urban heat adaptation

Heat Resilient Cities: Measuring benefits of urban heat adaptation

The impact of extreme temperatures on health and well being is rising up policy agendas in many cities. The Excel-based Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool has been designed to help city planners and decision-makers to quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of common urban heat adaptation actions. Cities can use this information to make the case for urban heat adaptation investments, and to prioritise the actions that are likely to have the most positive impact locally.

Users can calculate the benefits brought by specific parks and green infrastructure, water bodies such as rivers and lakes, and cool and vegetative surfaces. The tool can also extrapolate results from these specific investments to calculate the benefits of scaling-up across the whole of the city.

The tool was developed with guidance from cities which participate in the C40 Cool Cities Network, and from urban heat and health impact specialists. It has been piloted with the cities of Medellín and São Paulo – read below for a flavour of the results for both cities, or the case studies for full details.

Access the Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool and calculate benefits for your city’s actions via the Download button on this page. The tool will also soon be available here in Spanish. Instructions for using the tool are given in the first two tabs (Intro and Workflow) of the Excel file. Contact Neuni Farhad and Snigdha Garg with any questions about how to use the tool and interpret the results. You can also learn how the tool was developed in the methodology note.

The health and economic benefits of Medellín’s green corridors

Medellín’s green corridors are central pillar of the city’s strategy for reducing urban heat. They also provide residents with more green space, including along key cycle routes. Medellín built 36 green corridors between 2016 and 2019; the results generated with the Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool, summarised below, support further expansion of the city’s green infrastructure. Read the case study, which is available in English and Spanish, for the details.

Medellin quantified environmental, health and economic impacts of green corridors
Medellin green space
Photo by the City of Medellín

The health and economic benefits of São Paulo’s Ipiranga Stream Revitalisation

To revive urban natural environments and reduce extreme heat, the Department of Environment initiated the 100 Parks for São Paulo programme in 2005. By 2012, the number of city parks had increased from 34 to 100, covering an area of over 90 million square metres. Now, the city is planning to revitalise several watercourses to further reduce heat and flooding, improve water quality and protect the health of people living in affected areas. The Riacho do Ipriranga is among these watercourses. Using the Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool, the City of São Paulo has made a first assessment of the potential benefits, which are summarised below, which is helping to make the case for this investment. Read the case study, which is available in English and Portuguese, for the details.

Sao Paulo potential environmental, health and economic impacts from the revitalization project
Sao Paulo watercourse
Photo by Tazio Viadana

Download the Tool here.


This article was originally posted on the C40 Knowledge Hub.
Cover photo by Paulstern Madegwa.

New guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable NbS projects

New guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable NbS projects

A fresh-off-the-press IDB technical guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable Nature-based Solutions (NbS) projects that provide a substitute, compliment or safeguard to conventional ‘gray’ infrastructure projects.

Nature based Solutions (NbS) can play a central role in meeting the rising demand for infrastructure, and strengthening the resilience of infrastructure assets. They offer a cost-effective approach to enhance resilience, while providing a range of social and environmental benefits (e.g. recreational opportunities, habitat for biodiversity). In this context, NbS refer to activities associated with the protection, management, enhancement, and restoration of nature and implemented to deliver climate resilient infrastructure. This could refer to re-forestation activities for erosion control, coral reef restoration for coastal protection, and green space creation for stormwater runoff control in densely populated urban areas.

There is a high awareness of the benefits and services that NbS can provide, yet significantly less implementation within the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) context. Their potential remains largely untapped due to a number of barriers that prevent mainstreaming NbS into project development. Some of these barriers are upstream, for example, the lack of NbS incorporation into infrastructure policy and planning documents, or a lack of financial instruments to finance NbS. Other barriers are further downstream: these include, the challenges of defining the business case and accessing finance and funding, and the lack of adequate data, methods, and tools to incorporate NbS into project development.

In tackling some of these downstream challenges, the IDB, in collaboration with Acclimatise, have released a 12-step technical guidance document to integrate NbS into project development. The Guidance is targeted to planners, engineers, architects, contractors and operators interested in preparing bankable climate resilient projects that incorporate NbS either as a substitute, complement or safeguard to conventional infrastructure projects.

How was the guidance developed?

Figure 1: The twelve step process, and two cross-cutting themes, for integrating NbS into project development

In September 2019, the IDB convened a workshop with a range of LAC-based project developers and international experts with experience in NbS implementation (e.g. Deltares, World Bank, World Resources Institute, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). As LAC as a whole is early stages of NbS implementation, the IDB considered it opportune to leverage lessons learned from other parts of the world where NbS is more mainstream in project development, for example the Netherlands. At the workshop, the NbS experts iterated a preliminary technical guidance document that was drafted based on a review of LAC and international literature. The experts iterated the early stage draft and helped answer important questions such as ‘is this how it works in practice?’ ‘what steps or processes still need to be incorporated in this document?’, ‘what are the important LAC-specific elements that must be included?’.

The NbS experts shared their experiences and insights which were incorporated in the document, both at the workshop and throughout an extensive review in the months after.  The end product is the result of a participatory process incorporating multiple iterations with field experts, and should be considered a reference (or “go-to”) document for project developers interested in developing NbS projects in LAC, and globally.

The Technical Guidance Document is available in English and in Spanish and can be accessed here.


Cover photo by Michael Benz on Unsplash.
GEF supports new initiative to boost investment in nature-based infrastructure for climate adaptation

GEF supports new initiative to boost investment in nature-based infrastructure for climate adaptation

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has approved a $2 million grant for a new venture in partnership with the MAVA Foundation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which aims to increase investment in nature-based infrastructure that can help cities and countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The new global initiative, supported by the GEF-managed Special Climate Change Fund, will use financial modelling and climate change projections to establish the business case for investing in nature and make it easier for investors and government officials to assign a value to and consider nature-based solutions when making infrastructure spending decisions.

The project will equip decision-makers with comprehensive, system-wide valuations of natural assets, reflecting capital and operating costs as well as co-benefits from carbon sequestration, air purification, protection against water scarcity, and climate change adaptation, plus cost comparisons with grey infrastructure alternatives.

This is important as many decision-makers currently lack the tools to directly compare green or hybrid infrastructure solutions with alternatives, for instance when making decisions about flood control, food security, coastal protection, water conservation and wastewater treatment. Such infrastructure planning and spending decisions will be critically important in the coming years as countries plan their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward more ambitious climate change, biodiversity, and other goals and frameworks.

“We are proud to support this venture, which will address the critical evidence gap that investors and project developers currently face as they evaluate whether to invest in nature and nature-based infrastructure,” said GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. “Making this information more readily available will be a game changer for those making long-term decisions about infrastructure investments for economic recovery and development.”

The MAVA Foundation, a philanthropic organization working to conserve biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature, is partnering with the GEF and has pledged to provide $2 million in co-financing to scale up the impact of the project, which will be implemented by UNIDO and executed by IISD. The project, which will use data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, will also include a public online database making information on the valuation and performance of nature-based infrastructure available to a wide variety of project partners and stakeholders.

“Nature is part of the fundamental infrastructure on which thriving societies and economies depend. Despite its regenerative capacity, natural infrastructure – like built infrastructure – needs maintenance and therefore investment. This project will demonstrate that investing in maintaining and restoring our natural capital provides solutions to societal problems – above all to the adaptation to climate change. Most importantly, the training and capacity development offered will scale the project impact far beyond the concrete case examples,” said MAVA Foundation Director General Lynda Mansson.

“Our aim for this project is to consider social, economic, and environmental factors to demonstrate the system-wide case for investing in large-scale nature-based solutions,” said IISD President and CEO Richard Florizone. “Natural ecosystems like forests, mangroves, wetlands, and grasslands provide a range of ‘services’ that can complement and even substitute for built infrastructure. The strong evidence base we build through this unique partnership will help all market participants confidently invest in nature.”

“In line with UNIDO’s mandate to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development, we actively cooperate with private sector entities to further environmental stewardship approaches. This project will allow us to quantify the positive impact of stewardship activities on ecosystems as well as to demonstrate the cost efficiency of nature-based infrastructure. It will also allow us to highlight the economic value of the positive externalities provided by nature-based infrastructure to our partners in governments and international finance institutions. Thus, the project will have a catalytic impact on UNIDO’s efforts to up-scale public-private partnerships on environmental stewardship as required for a transformational change in climate change adaptation,” said UNIDO Managing Director Stephan Sicars.

The new project is an example of the GEF’s ongoing commitment to help countries and partners make wise investment decisions related to nature-based solutions and climate resilience, and reflects the Special Climate Change Fund’s focus on supporting innovative and impactful adaptation solutions. It will also support the Global Commission on Adaptation’s call to scale up action on nature-based solutions for adaptation.

For more information, please contact:

  • Laura MacInnis, GEF Senior Communications Officer, lmacinnis@thegef.org
  • Zahra Sethna, IISD Director of Communications, media@iisd.org
  • Holger Schmid, MAVA Foundation Program Director, holger.schmid@fondationmava.org
  • Charles Arthur, UNIDO Communications Officer, C.ARTHUR@unido.org

This article was posted on ReliefWeb.
Ten ways to support climate change adaptation planning and decision-making

Ten ways to support climate change adaptation planning and decision-making

This brief provides targeted recommendations for co-designing actionable and user-focused climate services. By this, the authors mean processes in which climate researchers and consultants work collaboratively with planners and other practitioners to develop climate information that supports adaptation planning and decision-making. The authors focus specifically on various means to enhance this collaboration.

Thus, this brief addresses subject matters -vocabulary choice, relationship building and political agendas, for example- that may seem far afield from the natural focus of people in research-driven, science careers. This brief aims to give people with climate expertise needed tools to help generate and target science that can inform more effective policies, make efficient use of limited funds, and reduce the vulnerability of people and places to the impacts of climate change.

In brief, the key recommendations provided, are (p. 2-5):

  1. Help practitioners articulate their needs, and challenge predefined solutions;
  2. Thoroughly assess the planning and decision-making contexts;
  3. Discuss output and time horizons early in the process;
  4. Involve facilitators in the co-design process;
  5. Adjust communication to the target audience;
  6. Combine different formats, including visualizations, to present the information;
  7. Align climate services with existing planning tools and processes;
  8. Discuss resolution of data;
  9. Address uncertainty;
  10. Ensure transparency and traceability.

Download the full brief here.


This article was originally posted on PreventionWeb.
Cover photo by Ashden on Climate Visuals.
The state of UCCRTF-supported cities during the pandemic

The state of UCCRTF-supported cities during the pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically changed the shape of daily life in cities around the world. The cities in which the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) operates are no exception.

​Economic activity has slowed considerably during lockdown and the planning and construction of infrastructure projects face delays as municipal governments tackle the immediate health crisis. So, what has life been like inside cities supported by UCCRTF? What lessons might the response to the COVID-19 crisis hold for building resilience to other shocks and stresses such as climate change?

​The city resilience officers of UCCRTF, who have been working on climate change resilience projects in many secondary cities across South and Southeast Asia, share how the pandemic has impacted their cities

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Image: Thanh Van, UCCRTF CRO in Vietnam

Summer season has arrived in Viet Nam and temperatures are rising. Reflecting on recent months, Hanoi citizens are very proud of what has been done to combat COVID-19. By the end of April, the Vietnamese Government recorded only 270 confirmed cases, of which 223 have recovered and returned home. Since that time there have been no further deaths, as of June 17th 2020.

The relatively low number compared to neighboring countries is largely due to the swift and effective prevention and control measures that the government put in place since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in January and cases in Hanoi in early March.

Viet Nam suspended entry of all foreigners from 22 March and mandatory health declarations became required at all international borders for Vietnamese nationals arriving from abroad. Authorities also suspended schools and canceled festivals nationwide. The most challenging time for many was the 22 days of lockdown from April 1 to 22. Everyone was asked to stay at home and stop all unessential activities.

People remain worried about the possibility of the virus spreading through the poorer areas of the cities, where living conditions are crowded. In Hue and Hoi An City, most people rely on tourism and other related business activities. They work in restaurants, hotels, tourism services, or small businesses such as street vendors or lottery ticket sellers. During the lockdown, the ban on gatherings meant many businesses had to close, many people lost their income and jobs.

To support these vulnerable groups, the government provided a support package of about VND 62 trillion ($2.7 billion) for around 20 million severely affected people for three months between April and June. In addition, free rice distribution centers were set up in Hanoi, HCMC, Danang, Hue, and other provinces to help poor people and those affected by the coronavirus.

While the country works toward a socioeconomic recovery, the immediate response to the crisis will focus on food production and manufacturing to support labor markets. As early as 4 May, tens of millions of students from preschool to high school in 63 provinces and cities returned to school, taking another step towards returning to some semblance of normal life.

Free Rice ATM in Hanoi for Poor effected
In Hanoi, rice is distributed for free to help with the daily needs of low-income groups (photo by Thanh Van)

The whole country has been declared as an ‘Infection Risk Area’ under Section 11 of the Bangladesh Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018. As of 17th June, 98,489 cases of COVID-19 have been identified and the number of deaths has risen to 1,305.   The highest number of COVID-19 cases is recorded in the older parts of Dhaka City.

All offices remain closed to prevent the spread of the disease. The army is currently carrying out street campaigns to enforce social distancing. People in infected areas must stay at home unless absolutely necessary. A daily curfew is enforced from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

The office of the Prime Minister issued an order assigning officials to each of the 64 districts in the country to supervise and coordinate a large-scale relief distribution program for vulnerable citizens.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved an emergency grant of $300,000 to the Bangladesh Government to help respond to the crisis. In collaboration with Directorate General of Health Services, this grant will be used to procure personal protective equipment such as face masks, safety googles, aprons, thermometers, and biohazard bags.

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Passengers wearing protective masks try to board on a launch at the Sadarghat terminal in Dhaka, Bangladesh (photo by ADB).

All the UCCRTF-funded cities remain under partial or complete lockdown, which is delaying progress on urban development, planning, and infrastructure programs. More importantly, cities are facing an additional challenge as the country approaches cyclone season. The combined COVID-19 and large-scale climate impacts will be difficult to manage as the responses to COVID (such as to stay inside and to maintain social distancing) are in contrast to the recommended response to cyclones, which may require people to leave their homes or congregate together in protective shelters.

​Recently, on 20 May, Bangladesh faced Super Cyclone Amphan, which made landfall in the southwestern part of the country causing serious damage to property. The UCCRTF-supported city of Patuakhali was badly affected. The government evacuated an estimated 2.4 million people from coastal districts, although observing social distancing was challenging. As an immediate measure, schools were used for more space in addition to regular cyclone shelters.

​A 3- to 4-meter tidal surge that accompanied the cyclone, however, destroyed crops and sources of drinking water.

​Relief efforts are currently underway in coordination with local administrations. According to the Bagerhat district administration, Amphan caused $50 million in direct damages with around 349 houses partially damaged and 374 houses completely destroyed. The total number of people affected by the cyclone in Bangladesh is estimated at 5,331.

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A health center near Peshawar is open round-the-clock and offers assistance to mothers and their children, in additional to general consultations (photo by Mallika Panorat, European Union).

​At present, only emergency services are available in all public and private hospitals, which have recently re-opened after being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools are still closed and only some offer classes online. There are also severe travel restrictions. The lockdown has affected every part of life in Pakistan’s cities.

The huge reduction in traffic has led to big improvements in air quality in major cities. While there is no data covering small cities backed by UCCRTF, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency has reported that the air quality index in Lahore has fallen from 496 parts per million (ppm) in January to 37 ppm in April. Similarly, for Islamabad, average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards, and concentrations of fine particulates (PM2.5) are also within permissible limits.

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Image: Tassadaq Shah UCCRTF CRO in Pakistan.

Currently, the UCCTRF-supported cities in Pakistan are not coping with other shocks and stresses from natural or human-induced hazards. However, since the cities are vulnerable to urban flooding and earthquakes, they are still at risk. The monsoon season is also drawing near (expected to start in July), which could compound the challenges faced by the cities. They will have to cope with flood management alongside COVID-19. While government officials, including national, provincial, and district disaster management authorities, are focused on COVID-19 response, this may well mean that there is less capacity to prepare for the upcoming flooding season. 


This article was originally posted on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities blog.
Cover photo by Thijs Degenkamp on Unsplash.
Salvador, Brazil: How to Decrease Gender Inequality in the Context of Covid-19

Salvador, Brazil: How to Decrease Gender Inequality in the Context of Covid-19

Coronavirus Speaker Series: Sharing Knowledge to Respond with Resilience is a weekly session organised by the Global Resilient Cities Network and the World Bank as a knowledge sharing session for cities in response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.

Daniela Ribeiro Guarieiro, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer, Municipality of Salvador (Brazil)

Daniela currently holds the position of Resilience Manager at the Municipality of Salvador, having participated actively in the development and implementation of Salvador’s Resilience Strategy, and actively participates in the Global Network of Resilient Cities. She is currently involved with the elaboration of the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plan of Salvador, Circular Economy initiatives in the city, and the resilient challenge to empower women entrepreneurship. She has an MSc in Public and Urban Policies from the University of Glasgow, UK, and a specialisation in Urban Economics and Public Management at PUC-SP, Brazil.


Download presentation

Watch video


Cover photo of Salvador, Brazil from Wikimedia Commons.
This presentation was originally posted on the Medium.
Finding solutions in nature for climate change

Finding solutions in nature for climate change

By Xiaoting Hou Jones

On the International Day of Biological Diversity, IIED hosted a multi-stakeholder webinar on how to work with nature to mitigate and adapt to climate change and halt biodiversity loss. IIED senior researcher Xiaoting Hou Jones chaired the event, and here she shares some highlights from the discussions.

Two men pushing a boat filled with mangrove seedlings
Restoring mangroves in Mexico: biodiverse marine ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass beds provide food and income for local people and protect against erosion and storm surges. (Photo: Andrea Stone, USAID/ECAM via FlickrCC BY-NC 2.0)

One key message from the webinar was the urgent need to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together.

Alex White, team leader for International Climate and Strategy at the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), summed up the urgent need. He said: “We need to develop approaches that reflect the complexity and scale of the challenges and work for climate, nature and people. Nature-based solutions (NbS) are part of the solution.”

This resonates strongly with the increasing global support from scientists, governments, private sector and civil society for integrated solutions such as NbS for climate change

The discussions also pointed to the multiple social, environmental, and economic benefits provided by NbS to climate change. A wide range of stakeholders, especially vulnerable local communities, can enjoy the benefits of NbS, making these solutions more attractive than their grey infrastructure counterparts.  

Watch a full recording of the webinar above and on IIED’s YouTube channel 

Mobilising finance for NbS for climate change 

Innovative financing to get money where it matters is one of the most important building blocks for NbS. Chip Cunliffe, sustainable development director for multinational insurance company AXA XL, highlighted the need for blended finance from public and private sectors. He said: “It is key that we start to build the right narrative that highlights the values of natural capital to engage possible investors and try to drive down existing barriers for financing NbS at scale.”

Cunliffe established and manages AXA XL’s Ocean Risk Initiative. AXA XL co-chairs the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance, a multi-sector collaboration designed to drive 500 million dollars investment in NbS in coastal regions by 2030.

Alliance partners are piloting innovative finance products to fund NbS at scale. These include blue carbon credits; resilience credits that allow companies to invest in restoration and conservation to reduce climate risks; corporate bonds where corporates can borrow money to manage and maintain natural capital while providing benefits for biodiversity and local communities; and insurance products that explicitly integrate natural capital and incentivise working with nature to mitigate climate risks. 

Participants also shared other financing models and emphasised the importance of finance reaching local communities, which are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts and are key for implementing NbS. Examples include: educating consumers and creating demand for diverse eco-friendly products, leveraging forest carbon market to support local communities to sustainably manage forests in Tanzania, and utilising lottery funds to mobilise local communities to implement NbS in the city of Bath in England. 

A word cloud

Click on the word cloud above to expand it. We asked participants to pick up to three words that capture the most important building blocks for translating global ambitions for nature-based solutions for climate change into effective local actions (Image: IIED)

Indigenous peoples and local communities in the driving seat

Indigenous communities around the world have been working with nature to adapt to changes for hundreds of years and are effective  stewards of biodiversity and natural carbon sinks such as forests. Musonda Kapena, CEO of the Zambia National Forest Commodities Association (ZNFCA), said indigenous knowledge systems can provide useful lessons on how to effectively design and implement NbS. ZNFCA has been working with traditional leaders in Zambia to mobilise communities at landscape scale to sustainably produce a wide variety of forest and agriculture products.  

ZNFCA is one of many forest farm producer organisations around the world supported by the Forest and Farm Facility, a partnership between FAO, IUCN, IIED and Agricord. Producers’ organisations such as ZNFCA can mobilise 1.5 million smallholder producers at scale, to drive a paradigm shift away from large-scale monoculture production systems that are vulnerable to climate change.

In supporting local communities working with nature to build more resilient local economy, these locally placed organisations can also support its members to respond and recover from COVID-19 and climate-related risks. 

Webinar participants highlighted the importance of building local capacity to access finance, communicate and share knowledge in ways that capture benefits that matter to local communities, and to ensure secure land and natural resource use rights for indigenous peoples and local communities. Participants shared examples of how they work with local communities to champion NbS around the world, including in ScotlandMaliBermuda and Latin America

Increasing global ambitions to build back better from COVID-19 

Many participants pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought sharp focus on societal vulnerability to systemic and multidimensional risks such as climate change and biodiversity loss. To build back a more resilient society, governments need to ensure global recovery responses tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and protect the most vulnerable. 

Sarah Nelson, head of policy oversight in the international environmental conventions team in DEFRA, highlighted the UK government’s efforts to increase the focus on the interlinkages of nature and climate and push for global ambitions for a green recovery. She said: “Nature will be one of the key themes for COP26 hosted by the UK government. The UK government recognises to achieve success either on tackling climate change or biodiversity loss, we have to tackle both simultaneously.” 

Nelson, who is leading on UK government’s nature theme for the next UN climate summit, said it recognises the important role NbS can play in building back better from COVID-19 (paywalled article). She said that in the lead-up to COP26, the UK aims to develop a ‘nature action pledge’, enabling countries to pledge concrete actions on nature and climate, providing a clear bridge between climate and biodiversity conventions. 

Another immediate opportunity to increase global ambitions on NbS is the post-2020 biodiversity framework, currently being negotiated by parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Speakers called for close engagement with local communities and the finance sector in developing the framework and ensuring effective implementation mechanisms that can mobilise actions to achieve targets. 

“We all need to act!” urged Musonda. As participants from all over the world representing private sector, NGO, communities, government and academia shared inspiring examples and called for close collaboration across sectors and countries, I left the webinar feeling hopeful and inspired for a future where integrated solutions like NbS is the norm rather than the exception. 


This article was originally posted on the IIED website. It has been reposted with permission.
Cover photo by Srecko Skrobic on Unsplash


Press Release: 12-step technical guidance document integrates NbS into project development

Press Release: 12-step technical guidance document integrates NbS into project development

The IDB, in collaboration with Acclimatise, are launching a 12-step technical guidance document to integrate NbS into project development.

A fresh-off-the-press IDB technical guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable Nature-based Solutions (NbS) projects that provide a substitute, compliment or safeguard to conventional ‘gray’ infrastructure projects.

Nature based Solutions (NbS) can play a central role in meeting the rising demand for infrastructure, and strengthening the resilience of infrastructure assets. They offer a cost-effective approach to enhance resilience, while providing a range of social and environmental benefits (e.g. recreational opportunities, habitat for biodiversity). In this context, NbS refer to activities associated with the protection, management, enhancement, and restoration of nature and implemented to deliver climate resilient infrastructure. This could refer to re-forestation activities for erosion control, coral reef restoration for coastal protection, and green space creation for stormwater runoff control in densely populated urban areas.

There is a high awareness of the benefits and services that NbS can provide, yet significantly less implementation within the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) context. Their potential remains largely untapped due to a number of barriers that prevent mainstreaming NbS into project development. Some of these barriers are upstream, for example, the lack of NbS incorporation into infrastructure policy and planning documents, or a lack of financial instruments to finance NbS. Other barriers are further downstream: these include, the challenges of defining the business case and accessing finance and funding, and the lack of adequate data, methods, and tools to incorporate NbS into project development.

In tackling some of these downstream challenges, the IDB, in collaboration with Acclimatise, have released a 12-step technical guidance document to integrate NbS into project development. The Guidance is targeted to planners, engineers, architects, contractors and operators interested in preparing bankable climate resilient projects that incorporate NbS either as a substitute, complement or safeguard to conventional infrastructure projects.

How was the guidance developed?

Figure 1: The twelve step process, and two cross-cutting themes, for integrating NbS into project development

In September 2019, the IDB convened a workshop with a range of LAC-based project developers and international experts with experience in NbS implementation (e.g. Deltares, World Bank, World Resources Institute, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). As LAC as a whole is early stages of NbS implementation, the IDB considered it opportune to leverage lessons learned from other parts of the world where NbS is more mainstream in project development, for example the Netherlands. At the workshop, the NbS experts iterated a preliminary technical guidance document that was drafted based on a review of LAC and international literature. The experts iterated the early stage draft and helped answer important questions such as ‘is this how it works in practice?’ ‘what steps or processes still need to be incorporated in this document?’, ‘what are the important LAC-specific elements that must be included?’.

The NbS experts shared their experiences and insights which were incorporated in the document, both at the workshop and throughout an extensive review in the months after.  The end product is the result of a participatory process incorporating multiple iterations with field experts, and should be considered a reference (or “go-to”) document for project developers interested in developing NbS projects in LAC, and globally.

The Techincal Guidance Document is available in English and in Spanish and can be accessed here*

*link to be provided when available


Cover photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash
Schools for girls can help to answer climate crisis

Schools for girls can help to answer climate crisis

By Alex Kirby

If you really want to tackle the climate emergency, there’s one simple but often forgotten essential: throw your weight behind schools for girls, and ensure adult women can rely on the chance of an education.

Obviously, in a world of differences, some people can do more to tackle the climate crisis than others. So it’s essential to recognise how much neglected potential exists among nearly half the human race.

But there’s a snag, and it’s a massive one: the women and girls who can do so much to avert global heating reaching disastrous levels need to be able to exercise their right to education.

Bold claims?  Project Drawdown is a group of researchers who believe that stopping global heating is possible, with solutions that exist today. To do this, they say, we must work together to achieve drawdown, the point when greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere start to decline.

Educating girls has multiple benefits that go far beyond the individual and any particular society. It can also result in rapid and transformative change that affects the planet itself”

The project’s conclusions are startling − and positive. One is that educating girls works better to protect the climate than many technological solutions, vital though they are, and including several variants of renewable energy.

Yet, the group finds, girls and women suffer disproportionately from climate breakdown, and failures in access to education worsen this problem. After the horrendous 2004 tsunami, for example, an Oxfam report found that male survivors outnumbered women by almost 3:1 in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. Men were more likely to be able to swim, and women lost precious evacuation time trying to look after children and other relatives.

But given more power and say in how we adapt to and try to prevent global heating, the female half of humankind could make disproportionally positive contributions, the project says.

Using UN data, it suggests that educating girls could result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 51.48 gigatonnes by 2050. The UN Environment Programme says that total greenhouse gas emissions had reached a record high of 55.3 gigatonnes in 2018.

Multiple barriers

The Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) is a UK-based organisation which argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C”.

It says that although access to education is a basic human right, across the world. girls continue to face multiple barriers based on their gender and its links to other factors such as age, ethnicity, poverty and disability.

But the RTA adds: “Research shows that for each intake of students, educating girls has multiple benefits that go far beyond the individual and any particular society. It can also result in rapid and transformative change that affects the planet itself.”

One example it cites is from Mali, in West Africa, where women with secondary education or higher have an average of 3 children, while those with no education have an average of 7 children.

Environmentalists’ failure

It says that while the UN currently thinks the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 bn by 2050, with most of the growth happening in developing countries, recent research shows that if girls’ education continues to expand, that number would total 2 billion fewer people by 2045.

It argues that it is not just politicians and the media who fail to focus on this grossly slewed access to education. The RTA says the environmental movement itself rarely makes connections between the education of girls and success in tackling climate change.

One example of conservation work being tied successfully to educating and empowering women it cites is the Andavadoaka clinic in Madagascar, which is funded by a British charity, Blue Ventures Conservation (BVC).

The link between population growth, the lack of family planning facilities and the increasing pressure on fragile natural resources prompted BVC to establish the clinic, which has been running for over a decade and is part of a wider programme serving 45,000 people. As well as the original clinic other projects have grown up that concentrate on specific economic and participation opportunities for women and girls.

Making a difference

In the least developed countries women make up almost half of the agricultural labour force, giving them a huge role in feeding the future population. But there is a massive gap between men and women in their control over land, their ability to obtain inputs and the pay they can expect.

Individual girls and women continue to make a massive difference, whether Greta Thunberg spurring action on climate change or Malala Yousafzai, shot for trying to attend school in Afghanistan, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign for girls’ education.

Women who have climbed high up the political ladder have sometimes used their success to ensure that girls are taken seriously. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of an African country − Liberia − used her power to expand the quality of provision in pre-school and primary education by joining the Global Partnership for Education, and the former US First Lady, Michele Obama, spearheaded the Let Girls Learn organisation.

The Rapid Transition Alliance’s conclusion is short and simple: “Educating girls brings broad benefits to wider society as well improving efforts to tackle the climate emergency.”


This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.