Nicola Pollitt, currently the British Ambassador to Nepal, in her article ‘climate code red: Nepal at the frontline’ (26 August 2021 in The Kathmandu Post) advises to invest in forests with a clear message: “the development of Nijgadh airport is a good example – where valuing the existing forests and biodiversity of the area against what could be gained by constructing the airport would provide useful data to base decisions on.” Further, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) calls to prevent, halt and reverse ecosystems degradation everywhere. It clearly reflects the importance &multiple benefits, and urgency of conserving, managing, restoring and/or creating ecosystems for the benefit of humankind and of all life-forms. Forest ecosystems have additional benefits in meeting human needs, regulating climate change and reducing its impacts. Countries informing about ‘carbon neutrality or ‘net zero emission’ also commit to conserving or creating greens.
Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) to climate change impact is comparatively a new concept. Although understanding in conserving and sustainably utilizing natural resources is deeply rooted with human civilization, public awareness and understanding of the importance and multi-benefits of EbA are relatively weak at different levels – policy and decision-making to implementation levels. EbA options or EbA mainstreamed into community-based adaptation activities are under implementation to address climate change impacts. Inadequate understanding has limited its use for long-term and sustained multi-benefits. Nepal has implemented and is implementing EbA options in rural areas and will implement them in urban municipalities as well (https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2021/08/09/advancing-eba-options-nepal/).
In recent years, people advocate for EbA, and a nature-based solutions (NbS) to reduce climate vulnerability and increase benefits by regulating climate and conserving forests and biodiversity. Payment for ecosystem services (PES) is also practiced in few countries. Convention on Biodiversity defines EbAas the use of biodiversity & ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change while IUCN defines NbSas 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. PES, also known as payments for environmental services, deals with the transfer of financial resources from beneficiaries of certain environmental services to those who provide services.
On 18 August 2021, Global EbA Fund, IUCN and UNEP with support from Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety organized a webinar on overcoming barriers to scale up EbA in Asia-Pacific. Innovative EbA solutions were shared with examples, experiences and learning to overcome key barriers related to knowledge, governance and financing. It provided inputs to the newly launched Global EbA Fund that intends to scale up EbA options to “build awareness and understanding, address planning and other governance gaps, and seek solutions to finance gaps.” The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) outlined lack of awareness of the role of natural assets, weak policy and regulatory environment and governance, and limited access to finance’ as a key barrier to scale-up NbS, including EbA.
In the webinar, resource persons shared their experiences and were urged to raise awareness, enhance understanding and communication, and launch pilot projects based on a clear understanding of what, when and where to act. The success of the pilot initiatives would result in scaling up EbA options at horizontal and vertical scales. Finance, technology, capacity building and partnerships are essential ‘means of implementation’ for EbAs.
In general, biological treatments are cost-effective, long-lasting and sustainable and provide multiple benefits. Effective implementation of EbA options would benefit people & communities, and sequestrate carbon, reduce effects of temperature and provide ‘free’ oxygen besides conserving water and soil. The importance of ‘under-valued free oxygen was greatly realized by CoVID patients.
Inadequate understanding of EbA results in irrational use of this word. Multi-stakeholders may be unfamiliar to this concept and may have frequently used it without properly understanding its real meaning and application. In the mid-1990s, environmental impact assessment (EIA) was used as a ‘buzz’ word. A brief field supervision report was also named as ‘EIA report’. Still, many people consider project-level EIA as a ‘panacea’ to all development misconducts due to lack of or inadequate understanding of the type, scale and coverage of assessment.
EbA is an effective and long-lasting sustainable option for climate change impacts. Communication of EbAis equally necessary to multi-stakeholders, policy and decision-makers or politicians to technocrats, EbA options implementers to local beneficiaries or potential victims of climate-induced disasters. Few experiences, lessons, good practices and learning are generated. Climate vulnerable communities enjoy incentives or benefits of ecosystem services they get from the implementation of EbA options. This can be enhanced through additional policy initiatives to restore degraded ecosystems. Policy interventions would contribute to expanding EbA options at horizontal and vertical scales. Furthermore, location-specific knowledge, experiences and learning would add value in advancing EbA options.
The urgency of adaptation is further realized. Qatar’s petroleum corporation is included in the top 100 CO2 emitters list. But its updated NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) focuses on climate change adaptation while Nepal’s second NDC can be leveled as ‘mitigation focussed’ despite our GHGs emissions of only 0.056% of the global totals.
Climate change advocates are urging governments to take strong measures to reduce GHGs emissions. EbA reduces climate change effects and plants sequestrate carbon. Realizing multi-benefits, countries are now engaged in prioritizing EbAsin whole or partly. However, it would require enhancing knowledge and understanding in at least 3 levels of organizations that are mandated for policy/decision-making, planning and allocating the finance, and implementation.
Planning and implementing organizations responsible for urban settlements in developed and high-income countries are mandated to conserve existing and/or promote/ensure greenery to maintain or create a clean, green and healthy environment. Authorities are engaged in raising and/or conserving trees as an integral part of urban development. Evergreen trees with large leaves are effective in sequestrating carbons. In a nutshell, EbA provides multiple opportunities to ensure environmental safety, adapt to climate change effects, reduce its potential threats, conserve water and soil and improve their quantity and quality. Understanding the multiple benefits of EbA options, Nepal may wish to promote greening the infrastructures, including urban settlements.