Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions? They’re powerful.

Nature-based solutions are gaining traction around the world as a means of mitigating the threats of climate change.

While there are various definitions of Nature-based solutions (NbS), they have many elements in common.  Generally speaking, NbS are actions taken to restore, protect, and sustainably manage natural ecosystems to address the myriad challenges posed by climate change, including:

Recent research indicates that Nature-based solutions can achieve over 33 percent of the way to the Paris Climate Target to keep global temperature increases under two degrees celsius by 2030.

Nature-based solutions are a core component of our mission at Nature For Justice.

Three examples of Nature-based Solutions currently underway:

In the Andean-Amazon slope in Ecuador, nearly 20 percent of the eastern tropical cloud forests have been lost over the past 20 years.  N4J is supporting the efforts of Los Aliados who has partnered with Cloudforest Organics and local farmers to implement a sustainable cloud forest management program in the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve buffer area in Ecuador.

This program encompasses reducing the adverse impact of cattle ranching, reforestation initiatives, and developing commercially viable agroforestry products.

Mangroves, in general, are a very important carbon sink. ​​ In fact, they can store up to 5 times more carbon than forests. Mangroves provide a number of ecosystem benefits such as protection against storm surges and coastal erosion. In addition, they offer a fertile habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures.

In Senegal, local coastal communities are restoring and protecting mangrove forests which help shield the communities from storm damage.  The local community members also harvest fish, crustaceans, and molluscs living in the mangroves for consumption and sale in local markets.


Forest clearing is a global problem. Its loss accounts for between 8 and 10 percent of carbon emission around the world. In Burundi, rural populations have planted crops on steep hillsides without taking erosion into account. As a result of climate change, torrential rains and droughts have increased the force and frequency of landslides.

The World Bank is supporting a project there to terrace hillside, using vegetation for erosion control and soil health improvements. Farmers are planting tree crops and various grasses to protect the topsoil and make the land more productive for farming, while also sequestering carbon.

Nature-based Solutions: Principles

Of equal importance are a number of principles or what we at N4J call approaches  that need to be incorporated into such solutions.  Three are highlighted below:

  • NbS are determined by the natural and cultural context.  The NbS is founded on an evidence-based understanding of the ecosystem in question. This must include traditional knowledge possessed by the local people living in and having a stake in the particular ecosystem and the proposed NbS.
  • The benefits of the NbS need to be shared in a fair and equitable manner. The development of NbS needs to promote broad participation and transparency, including carbon credits or payments for other ecosystem services.  This is especially true for the local communities affected by climate change where the NbS are taking place.
  • Implementing NbS must carefully collect high-quality data for actionable insights and every result must be rigorously measured. Integrity is key in the trust-based systems we build.  The results must stand up to the rigors of transparency, industry standards, and peer review.

Nature-based solutions offer many avenues for climate change mitigation: conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management measures to increase carbon storage and /or avoid GHG emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. Many NbS also offer opportunities for improved economic security and social justice for at-risk local communities.

Getting to 33 Percent

In the chart below, Bronson Griscom, currently the leader of Conservation International’s Natural Climate Solutions team, and formerly the Director of Forest Carbon Science at The Nature Conservancy, and his colleagues illustrate 20 land use strategies for storing and reducing carbon emission in Forests, Agricultural Lands & Grasslands, and Wetlands.

The white bar represents the maximum climate mitigation for each, the gray bar what is needed to keep global warming under 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the dark gray bar for what can be achieved for less that $10 per ton of carbon.


According to Griscom’s analysis, stopping the destruction of forests, grasslands, and wetlands pulls 3.9 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere; smarter farming and forestry techniques reduce 5.1 billion; and restoring the lost forest and wetlands give us another 2 billion —  a total of 11 billion tons of carbon, over one-third of the reductions necessary.

Alongside aggressive fossil fuel emissions reductions, NbS offer a powerful set of options for nations to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement while creating a myriad of environmental, economic and social justice opportunities. Nature For Justice and its funders and partners are on the forefront of this important work in 13 countries across the globe with plans to expand further in the future.

Join us in the fight.  Make a donation here.


  • Hank Cauley

    An engineer who later got a business degree to achieve social and environmental justice through existing economic structures. He’s started or built many organizations and projects. Hank lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and is an avid bee-keeper.

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