Nature-based solutions compact at Climate and Land Summit
The one-day Climate and Land Summit hosted by the National Trust was a chance for the country’s largest landowners and government ministers to debate a range of climate change commitments ahead of COP26.
Nature-Based Solutions Compact
Agreed at the Climate and Land Summit. Hosted by the National Trust, Wimpole Estate, Tuesday 12 October 2021.
The National Trust has put together a set of ambitious guiding principles for land managers to deliver high quality nature-based solutions. The principles aim to ensure that solutions deliver for nature, for the climate and for everyone.
Signatories believe that a climate-focused nature-based solution of the highest standard will:
Be implemented alongside, not instead of, urgent and meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and increase biodiversity, and be designed and monitored to ensure that there is a net gain of carbon sequestration.
Create or restore wildlife rich habitats and ecosystems to genuinely support nature’s recovery and provide long-term biodiversity increases in a changing environment.
Wherever practical, be designed, implemented or managed in consultation with local communities to ensure they take account of past, present, and future landscape character.
Facilitate opportunities, wherever practical, to deliver benefits for communities and people, at a local and a national level, including to address the impacts of climate change upon people, communities, infrastructure and society.
Consider the location, ecology and the broader landscape, to put the right solution in the right place and deliver multiple benefits.
Be future-proofed and adaptively managed to ensure they are climate resilient and effective for generations to come.
What are nature-based solutions and why do they matter?
Nature-based solutions are land management interventions that use nature and natural ecosystems to deliver improvements against societal problems, providing multiple benefits for the public and for biodiversity.
Examples of nature-based solutions
Widely recognised as a critical aspect of our response to climate change, examples of
nature-based solutions include woodland creation, peatland restoration and coastal managed realignment.
The demands on our land are multiple; from sequestering carbon to supporting the livelihoods of many families, and from providing habitats for nature to producing the food and natural resources society needs to live prosperously.
What are the challenges?
As the Committee on Climate Change states in its Sixth Carbon Budget: 'Delivering emissions reduction should not be at the expense of increasing food imports that risk "carbon leakage".' To ensure our small island can meet all of these needs, we must use the same plot of land to deliver against several demands. Nature-based solutions answer this challenge, as they deliver simultaneously against some of society’s most pressing challenges, including:
- Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions
- There is a global climate crisis and if we are to limit the effects of climate change, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions rapidly in the UK. Restoring peatlands, for example, reduces the loss of carbon to the atmosphere that occurs as the peat degrades.
- Sequestering carbon
- Woodlands, wetlands and saltmarsh are all habitats known to sequester carbon efficiently, but the restoration or creation of many other habitats will also make a contribution.
- Reversing the loss of nature
- With unprecedented declines in the abundance and distribution of the wildlife that underpins a healthy environment, we need to restore and create bigger and better habitats.
- Restoring healthy soils, air and freshwaters
- Targeted woodland establishment can reduce atmospheric pollution and soil erosion. Riparian buffers can help improve water quality and shade water bodies from increased temperatures.
- Adapting to the effects of climate change
- The effects of climate change have already negatively affected people, businesses and the places we love. Trees can provide shade in extreme heat, and floodplain meadows can be restored to store more water, alleviating flood risk downstream.
- Addressing inequality of access to nature
- Evidence shows that there are significant inequalities in people’s access to nature, often correlated to poverty and BAME representation.
- Improving public health and wellbeing
- A growing body of evidence suggests that for those living in urban deserts, with reduced opportunity to connect with the natural world, the impact on their health and wellbeing is significant. More nature is needed within and close to cities.
- Developing rural economic opportunities
- Rural areas often struggle to retain young people because of limited local job opportunities. Land based rural economies such as local food markets, nature conservation and green access can generate local green jobs.
- Increasing supply of sustainable high quality, nature- and climate-friendly food and timber
- Nature-based solutions can meet the multiple demands on our land for climate and nature improvements, while still delivering crops and livestock, and other natural materials, grown to high environmental and animal welfare standards. Domestic production of these goods ensures we are not reliant on imports, which frequently carry a higher carbon impact.
Why do we need principles for nature-based solutions for climate change?
Nature-based solutions will be a key mechanism to tackle a broad number of issues, but they will be particularly useful in addressing climate change. While they alone cannot fix the climate crisis or alleviate all its effects, and we still also need to adopt ways of living that produce less carbon, nature-based solutions will play a crucial role in reaching the national net zero greenhouse gas emissions target and in helping us to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Nature-based solutions, moreover, are an effective solution that can be deployed immediately, as opposed to other new technologies that are still being designed or tested. For nature-based solutions to have a lasting and effective impact, they will need to be designed well and deliver multiple benefits that embed them in the landscape and local communities.
How will the principles help?
That nature-based solutions provide these multiple benefits however - for people, climate and nature – cannot be taken for granted. If not properly planned and managed, solutions can be short lived or unsustainable. Moreover, if implementing climate solutions significantly reduces agricultural or natural resource production, we will only displace our emissions to other countries.
Thus, the National Trust, as a practitioner of nature-based solutions, has put together a set of ambitious guiding principles for land managers, to ensure that solutions deliver for nature, for the climate, and for everyone.
The Trust hopes these principles will help encourage the development and uptake of nature-based solutions which meet the highest standards of delivery, are integrated into nature-friendly farming, and directly tackle the causes and effects of climate change. They represent our own understanding of a quality solution and have been learned from our practical experiences of implementing changes to our land use and land management.
Using our principles
The principles are based on the Guidelines put together by Oxford University’s Nature-Based Solutions Institute and the IUCN’s Global Standard for Nature-Based Solutions, and are written in a way to ensure they are relevant to land managers in the UK. Accompanying case studies illuminate how this theory translates to practice. They are focused in particular on nature-based solutions that target sequestering carbon and adapting to the effects of climate change.
Working together to respond to climate change demands
By signing this compact, these organisations pledge to seek to reach this high standard themselves and/or to recommend this standard to their members. As land managers, however, we know that meeting this high standard is extremely challenging, and there are barriers that mean that at present it will not always be possible in the face of the urgent response that the threat of climate change demands.
We also fully acknowledge the need for partnership working between landowner and tenant to be able to effect real change. However, these principles represent the gold standard we, the signatories, aspire to meet and will endeavour to do our best to achieve.
Government support needed
Signatories, as land-managers, need government support to consistently deliver this high standard of nature-based solutions. In particular, as they design the three tiers of the Environmental Land Management Scheme, the signatories urge government to keep in mind this compact and design a scheme that facilitates and incentivises this high-quality delivery.
Moreover, we ask that those in local government refer to this compact also, particularly when designing the Local Nature Recovery Strategies, as these will be essential for integrating effective and high-quality nature-based solutions into the existing landscape.
Signatories believe that a climate-focused nature-based solution of the highest standard will:
1. Be implemented alongside, not instead of, urgent and meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and increase biodiversity, and be designed and monitored to ensure that there is a net gain of carbon sequestration.
The most pressing action we need to take to tackle climate change is to reduce the harmful emissions we release. Society, and particularly land managers, can do this, for example, by shifting towards renewable energy sources, using electric vehicles, making our buildings more energy efficient and reducing emissions from agriculture.
Nature-based solutions can complement such carbon reduction strategies and help reduce the impacts of existing and continuing emissions; however, we cannot use nature-based solutions to neutralise all the harmful emissions we are currently releasing. Reducing emissions and mitigation efforts, including nature-based solutions, will be crucial in reaching our national ambition of having net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, for nature-based solutions to be meaningful in the fight against climate change, they must be accompanied by efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Nature-based solution should be implemented alongside, not instead of, existing and increased nature conservation policy, funding and action which is essential to turn around the loss of biodiversity in the UK. Implementing nature-based solutions will go a long way to creating new, nature-friendly habitats, but significant separate work is also needed to create the breadth of high-quality habitats required by our native species.
Land use changes and management practices of nature-based solutions can themselves generate emissions; steps should be taken to ensure that these emissions do not outweigh the carbon sequestered by the solution. Where possible, baselining and monitoring should be put in place so the net emissions of the project can be understood and minimised.
2. Create or restore wildlife rich habitats and ecosystems to genuinely support nature’s recovery and provide long-term biodiversity increases in a changing environment.
Implementing nature-based solutions should not only deliver carbon sequestration, but also generate long-term improvements to biodiversity by creating new or restoring old habitats that wildlife will use. This will ensure that any solution implemented increases the number and abundance of species that benefit from the land.
Land managers should ensure that there is a net increase in the land managed for nature and the number of benefits delivered for biodiversity through nature-based solutions. This should be done by taking a baseline of wildlife abundance and frequent monitoring to ensure that the solution is genuinely delivering for native wildlife. Overall, any nature-based solution should contribute to the Government’s effort to halt and reverse species decline by 2030 and should be monitored to ensure this is achieved.
3. Wherever practical, be designed, implemented or managed in consultation with local communities to ensure they take account of past, present, and future landscape character.
In some cases, to implement a nature-based solution, consultation with local communities is compulsory, but land managers, wherever practical, should aim to work in collaboration with local communities to ensure nature-based solutions are well understood and accepted. The multiple benefits that land managers can deliver to the environment and society are not always well-recognised. Implementing nature-based solutions offers an opportunity for an improved understanding between land managers and local communities on what good land stewardship can provide.
Respecting the existing landscape character will help to ensure the new solution is welcomed and is effective. This does not mean nothing can change, rather it means understanding what is important and special about local landscapes and interpreting this for current societal and environmental demands. The historic uses of the land as well as the needs of modern society must both be considered. Taking account of landscape character also includes protecting existing historic features and working with existing plans for the neighbourhood, such as the Local Nature Recovery Strategies in England.
4. Facilitate opportunities, wherever practical, to deliver benefits for communities and people, at a local and a national level, including to address the impacts of climate change upon people, communities, infrastructure and society.
Beyond just working with local communities, implementing a nature-based solution provides the opportunity to deliver wider benefits to people, beyond carbon sequestration and habitat creation. This might include, for example, encouraging and facilitating local access to nature, by providing a path through newly planted woodland, or generating green jobs and apprenticeships in the local area.
In particular, nature-based solutions can be an essential delivery mechanism in helping society to adapt to more extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels and flooding, caused by climate change. These solutions are particularly beneficial because they often involve land managers working in close partnership with local people to reconnect them with and enhance the natural assets that underpin and protect their homes and livelihoods.
5. Consider the location, ecology and the broader landscape, to put the right solution in the right place and deliver multiple benefits.
Any land management change will have consequences, so it is important to find the solution that maximises the benefits and balances the trade-offs. These benefits might include carbon sequestration, flood management, local community health, and increasing biodiversity. Nature-based solutions by definition will deliver multiple benefits across these categories and the best will be an effective mechanism to deliver against the multiple pressures on our land, from food production to providing new habitats. There will often be choices in the benefits a project can deliver and a fair, transparent, and inclusive process will be the best way to balance these.
Different areas will be better suited to different solutions. This means, for example, a landscape of deep peat will be better suited to rewetting, rather than using it as a place to establish a new forest, because the former may store carbon more effectively and the latter might release carbon from the soil. Early consideration, through consultation with local and national experts, on where to put a solution can ensure multiple benefits are delivered.
The natural context of a plot of land will also be influenced by broader landscape-scale considerations, such as catchment areas, and these will also have a bearing on which solution is most appropriate. Land managers can look to plans and analysis of the local area, including Local Nature Recovery Strategies in England, to understand the potential of the land, how it could best be used, and how it could best complement the surrounding landscape.
Employing a nature-based solution does not necessarily mean taking land out of agricultural production. In many cases, solutions can be implemented that increase or diversify agricultural production, while still delivering several benefits. Farmers should consider what part of their land is most suitable to employing a nature-based solution, both from the perspective of delivering more, bigger, better and more joined up nature, but also from an economic perspective.
6. Be future-proofed and adaptively managed to ensure they are climate resilient and effective for generations to come.
When implementing a nature-based solution, consideration should be given to the changes we will increasingly see to our land because of climate change. Already, temperatures are becoming more extreme and flooding and drought more commonplace and extensive, and these changes will only increase. Not only can nature-based solutions help to alleviate the effects of these changing weather patterns, but solutions should be implemented that will be sustainable in this new and changing environment. Adding regular review points into the management plan of a solution will ensure it is correctly adapted to changing circumstances.
We are still studying and learning about nature-based solutions, so it is very likely that new techniques will develop and new best practice will evolve as the evidence base grows. These should be applied; management of nature-based solutions must evolve with the science, as well as the climate. Innovation and testing of new techniques and natural technologies should be welcomed and this further requires fluid management and monitoring, to understand the effect new techniques deliver and adapt them to ensure positive outcomes. Management plans should also be flexible enough to react and make changes if monitoring reveals the project is not delivering the desired outcomes or if changing external factors have impacted the project’s effectiveness.
- Riverlands project at Porlock Vale
- Find out how this special project is creating a natural ecosystem to prevent flooding and encourage a wider habitat to attract wildlife in Somerset.Read about the project
- Warroch Hill woodland creation
- Discover how Warroch Hill farm in Perthshire, Scotland, was transformed into an award-winning woodland.Read about the project
- Clifton wastewater treatment works
- Find out how Yorkshire Water has created an integrated constructed wetland near Doncaster to treat water in a sustainable way and increase biodiversity.Read about the project
- Peatland restoration on Dartmoor
- Discover more about the multi-million pound project to restore damaged peatland on the moors of Dartmoor, Bodmin and Exmoor.Read about the project
- Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership
- The River Rye’s valleys and waters have been prized for millennia but its health and diversity is at risk. Find out how the Ryevitalise scheme is tackling that.Read about the project
- Agroforestry on a livestock farm
- Find out about the benefits of agroforestry from farmer Nic Renison through her experiences at her farm in Cumbria.Read about the project
- Medmerry Nature Reserve
- Discover how the restoration of intertidal habitat, including salt marsh, helped flooding and coastal erosion issues at Medmerry Nature Reserve in West Sussex.Read about the project
- Connecting the Culm
- Find out about how the Connecting the Culm project in Devon aims to use nature-based solutions to help with flooding and drought.Read about the project
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