Workshop on Nature-Based Solutions

On 19-20 May 2020, STAP held a virtual workshop to review the experience gained in implementing nature-based solutions (NbS), and to distill and discuss best practices and lessons learned to guide future investment by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  The event was a joint effort between STAP, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Gordan and Betty Moore Foundation, each presenting insights derived from a review of NbS projects in their respective portfolios.

The workshop was attended (virtually) by eighty participants representing a variety of sectors including international organizations, universities, philanthropies, and non-governmental organizations. Break-out groups during the second day discussed and reported back on the following questions:

Question 1: How should a balance be struck between the interests of nature and of people in NbS?

Question 2: What are the barriers to implementing NbS, and how can successful solutions be scaled up?

Question 3: How to make NbS operational – in their design, execution, and management?

A guidance note for future GEF NbS projects will be developed by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), and a short paper on NbS will be prepared for the Global Commission on Adaptation by STAP, the Moore Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, the Chair of STAP, summarized the workshop’s conclusions as follows:

Workshop participants repeatedly noted we are at ‘a unique point in time’.  2020 was to have been the ‘year of nature’.  The world will be working to bring back the economy after COVID-19 and could build back ‘green’ – we must not waste this opportunity to pursue Nature-based solutions (NbS). To do so, the extant community of practice must be expanded to include leaders in the fields of health, infrastructure, planners, and the private sector.  The evidence base (admittedly still accumulating) must be tailored into actionable information for the different user communities – so that NbS is presented in language and terms that are relevant to the field of the practitioners, from engineers to ecologists to business to development agencies. The evidence base needs to be improved with more case studies and better metrics for characterizing the successes/failures, co-benefits/synergies/tradeoffs.  While much monitoring of ‘numbers’ may be occurring, we need to move to evaluation of what works, doesn’t work, and why, so that more learning takes place.  There may be different – or even opposite – outcomes across spatial, temporal, and sectoral scales.  In order to have NbS considered on equal footing with other options, it is important to improve the quantification of the costs, and the benefits over both the short and the long-term; in particular, the benefits are not well monetized.  There is a clear role for Natural Capital Accounting and “inclusive growth” concepts to be integrated into regional, national, and local planning efforts. NbS can be modular, flexible, and resilient to future shocks (such as climate change, extreme events, etc.) and could provide win-win solutions. NbS must include options that the policymakers and the community embrace, so stakeholder engagement from the top-down and bottom-up in the design of actions and goals is essential.  In many cases, there is a role for meso-scale or boundary organizations to help achieve coherence in options chosen across scales or jurisdictions.  NbS would benefit from more involvement of social and behavioral science to help design innovations that are wanted and acceptable to stakeholders, and to help with appropriate training and capacity building so that outcomes are more likely to maintained and durable.  Scaling up the impact of NbS to achieve transformational change is urgent and the development community needs ‘best practices’ and lessons learned to be shared rapidly!

Workshop documentation:


Additional documents can be found at Nature-based Solutions and the GEF.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 09:00 to Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 12:00