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How businesses can use nature-based solutions to build resilience

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nature-based solutions
Nature-based solutions reduce climate risk, restore and protect biodiversity, and bring benefits for communities and economies
 
We face unprecedented challenges in our world today. The ongoing once-in-a-generation pandemic, to increasingly extreme weather events causing devastation at local and regional scales. The climate crisis causing disasters around the world is due to the imbalance of the carbon cycle, and increase in greenhouse gases from human activity.
The sixth IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report cements the science on the causes. In addition, human activity also has terraformed Earth’s landscapes destroying the natural ecosystems causing biodiversity decline. This further harms the ability of our regenerative Earth systems to maintain stability.
The imbalances in the biosphere affect nature and way of life. The current economic pathway is directly in conflict with nature. It is the source of our life, livelihoods, and economy. Strengthening nature inclusive thinking in business decisions creates a resilient future.

Realising the value of nature

We get everything from nature, food, water, shelter, medicine, recreation, and even our source of cultural identity and heritage. In addition, the natural world keeps our climate stable, and supports trillions of life forms in the beautiful fabric of life.
Our economy is embedded within nature. Even our cultural identity and pride of heritage comes from the natural environment. Dutch ingenuity overcoming challenges of water dykes and canals, to harnessing the fertile Gangetic plain in India or Nile valley in Africa nourishing huge communities define culture.
In the industrial age, the relation with nature has changed with exponential increase in material use. Materials all sourced from nature. The industrial age powered by the economic model of capitalism has one fundamental flow: unlimited growth. There cannot be infinite growth on a planet with a finite number of resources. The balance was shifted post 1970, when this trend accelerated. The available resources have been consumed far beyond availability and regeneration, coming to symbolize Earth Overshoot Day when the consumption exceeds supply. In 2021, this day came as early as July 29th, projecting a use of 1.7 Earth.
The situation is grim with increasing disasters but there are solutions readily available. Benefits of nature can be quantified using nature based solutions, or where services from natural ecosystems are calculated. This topic is changing the way we consider nature in the discussions of national, global and economic agendas.

Turning to nature for solutions

The biggest issues now are disastrous outcomes to life and economy from floods, droughts, storms due to climate change. These disasters threaten our food and water security, health and economy. Destruction of natural environments exacerbates the issue as it harms the ability of the ecosystems to stabilize the climate. Thus looking to nature offers us solutions to these challenges yielding the benefits for a particular challenge but also supporting other co-benefits as well.
Nature-based solutions reduce climate risk, restore and protect biodiversity, and bring benefits for communities and economies. In the case of climate change, using natural ecosystems to adapt to extreme events is the key to building resilience. The natural ecosystems also mitigate the worst case scenarios of climate change that exacerbate the rest of the societal issues.
Nature-based solutions refer to restoring, managing, and building green and blue infrastructures along with our traditional grey concrete structures. Some examples of green and blue infrastructures are urban wetlands, coastal wetlands, forests, coral reefs, seagrasses, sand dunes, beaches, urban green spaces, inland wetlands, rivers, floodplains, and mangroves.

Nature-based business resilience

In general, 1 in 3 people live within 100 kms of the coast. The climate threat of sea level rise coupled with storms, and flood cascading events make this geography very challenging. Almost all of the coastal areas are affected by a 1m rise in sea level. The major losses in terms of people affected, and property damages affects South Asian and North American regions. The natural solutions for seagrasses, mangroves, corals, and dunes offer much needed protection and perform orders of magnitude better than grey engineered solutions. In these areas, 80% of extreme weather events are water related.
In contrast to excessive water-related issues, water risk by scarcity or drought is projected for the upcoming decades. Lack of water can severely disrupt communities and business activities. In such a scenario, water quality should be protected with low impact agriculture that respects the nitrogen and phosphorous boundaries. Protecting watersheds by restoring and managing lakes, ponds, river buffers, and natural vegetation can significantly mitigate the risk factor.
These natural infrastructures, such as green and blue infrastructure should be augmented to traditional grey built structures to increase resilience. A flood defence wall made of concrete along with mangroves, and floodplains can cope with extreme weather events much better. Businesses that realize the threat to their operations can prepare and implement adaptation solutions. The use of technology and shifts in policy and process can help with the transition towards a nature based resilience strategy.
Nature-based solutions reduce climate risk, restore and protect biodiversity, and bring benefits for communities and economies.
Resilience to climate threats by leveraging natural resources is key to safeguarding human life, and economic activity. For businesses located in coastal, drought-prone, flood-prone areas, the focus on resilience and climate action is essential for continued, and profitable business operations.

Quantifying nature-based resilience using data and models

The development of natural infrastructure to protect against threats is key to building resilience. The benefit of a particular natural infrastructure was not known, due to the lack of models. But with the development of ecology models for urban cooling, flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, the benefit of the nature based solutions can now be quantified.
The proliferation in data from ground measurements, and remote sensing data has been a game changer. With remote sensing, images, radar data, and air quality data can be gathered for analysis. These data points help us evaluate the climate risk for locations, with projections and make necessary interventions to prevent the losses.
All the climate data, and ecology data has to be disseminated into a usable format. Accessibility, usability, and integration in the workflow is key to ensuring technology is user-centric. Many tools are built for the sake of technology that fails with adoption. New technology tools to help identify assets and communities at risk, and design adaptation solutions that can be monitored over the entire lifecycle add value.

Re-evaluating the policy culture

The technological solutions using big data, and AI/ML would be useless if the capacity to use is not developed within organizations. The bandwidth to adopt, integrate and use technologies is crucial and can be supported using company processes and building culture. In addition, a nature inclusive thinking mindset is important along with innovation measures to achieve the mainstreaming of nature based solutions for disaster reduction, and other co-benefits.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

Gagan Reddy - CittamapThe author Gagan Reddy is a Nature Tech Entrepreneur, and Climate Educator working on the climate and biodiversity crisis combining technology and ecology to realize a safe, and green world. Currently working in the Netherlands and India as Founder-CEO of a data analytics venture that empowers decision making using spatial data and digital dashboards. As a Global Shaper and Climate reality leader corps member, there is a strong focus on social impact. His venture Cittamap began its journey with projects focused on urban spaces in collaboration with the government of Netherlands in 2018. Today, the company has pivoted to focus on the impact of climate change on critical energy and water infrastructure. Cittamap provides data insights for infrastructure owners/operators and investors to mitigate climate risk of infrastructure assets.