Natural Capital Ireland delivered a series of Nature-based Solutions workshops to the Atlantic Seaboard North (ASBN) local authorities on behalf of the ASBN Climate Adaptation Regional Office (CARO) in April, May and June of 2021. Here Dr Emer Ní Dhúill, who hosted the project workshops, takes us through their key messages:
The aim of our Nature-based Solutions (NbS) workshops was to support the ASBN local authorities in delivering on their Climate Adaptation Strategy goals and developing their Implementation Plans which form part of their statutory obligation on national and international legislation and commitments. As part of the project, Natural Capital Ireland (NCI) delivered the following:
An introductory workshop on NbS that was attended by all five ASBN local authorities (Donegal, Galway City, Galway County, Mayo and Sligo);
Individual workshops tailored to the specific needs of each ASBN local authority in relation to their Climate Adaptation Strategies and NbS;
An NbS webinar aimed at all staff members of the ASBN local authorities which provided a summary of the workshop series.
This workshop series provided an introduction to Nature-based Solutions, a practical guide to their implementation and a platform for discussion. Following an introduction to the concept, practical examples were given, followed by the discussion and an NbS Implementation Plan template.
Guest speakers from a wide variety of sectors contributed to the workshops, such as academia, community groups, NGOs, consultancies and other government agencies. Overall, 18 guest speakers presented their work, covering a wide range of topics such as coastal erosion, natural flood management, peatland restoration, constructed wetlands, water quality, community engagement, green infrastructure, health and well-being and NbS in cities and many more.
Engagement was excellent throughout the workshops with great discussion between local authority staff and guest speakers on NbS and its relevance to their Climate Adaptation Strategy actions.
The solution must support biodiversity and ecosystem services - otherwise it is not a Nature-based Solution.
Nature-based Solutions (NbS)
As per the European Commission, NbS are solutions that are ‘inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions’.
Examples of Nature-based Solutions
During the workshop series, many examples of NbS and their benefits were given by our guest speakers, some of which included:
Restoring and protecting ecosystems such as peatlands, hedgerows, woodlands, wetlands in catchments
Restoring and protecting coastal habitats
Natural flood management
Constructed wetlands and reed beds
Bringing nature into our cities and providing green spaces
Urban NbS examples given included building resilient cities through living green walls and roofs and creating new green spaces within cities. The co-benefits for health due to improved air quality were highlighted. The topic of mental health and well-being was also discussed, reinforcing the psychological importance of being connected with nature.
Nature-based Solutions Implementation Plan
NCI developed an Implementation Plan template to be used by the ASBN local authorities as a guidance document that will need to be tailored for specific Nature-based Solution projects as each approach to NbS should be place-based and place-specific.
"NbS already exist! We must protect, maintain and restore ecosystems so that they function better as NbS."
Key take-home messages
NCI collected some key take-home messages for each local authority from the workshops in relation to climate adaptation and NbS. One of the key messages highlighted by our guest speakers throughout the workshop series was that, in many instances, NbS already exist.
It is important that the term ‘Nature-based Solutions’ is mainstreamed and considered as a first solution in many instances for climate adaptation actions.
Another key message was the need for community engagement and empowerment:
Communities are part of the solution and can be the key drivers for many NbS projects
Local solutions and local knowledge are paramount
Local authorities need to support community groups
Local authorities need to engage with the farming community
It is important for local authorities to:
Build on the existing knowledge base
Collaborate with other local authorities and agencies
Start with NbS pilot projects where possible
Share the knowledge
Training and upskilling is essential
Identify funding streams
Share the success and challenges of NbS project implementation
Engage with local schools and colleges
It is vital that the importance of NbS is understood by those who make the decisions and who are in charge of finance. Investment in nature and Nature-based Solutions is essential for climate mitigation and adaptation and for building resilience. The cost of implementing NbS is a fraction of the cost of dealing with the aftermath of extreme weather events due to climate change. It is of paramount importance that our natural capital is valued and its ability to provide Nature-based Solutions is factored into decision-making and financial investment.
Nature provides the solutions - and we must work with nature in order to build resilience and adapt to climate change.
WATCH: You can view recordings of the Nature-based Solutions workshops on this YouTube playlist: LINK
Natural Capital Ireland can provide this type of workshop to other local authorities and any other interested groups, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.