Great opportunities, but also challenges, for nature-based solutions in the Nordic countries
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Great opportunities, but also challenges, for nature-based solutions in the Nordic countries


Clear political priorities, institutional structures, common standards and funding structures are among the key factors for implementing nature-based solutions (NBS) in the Nordics. Learn more in a recent publication from the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The role of NBS against climate change and biodiversity loss is increasingly emphasized, most recently during the UN climate change conference (COP27) and the UN biodiversity conference (COP15).

The knowledge and implementation of such solutions are increasing in the Nordic countries. The new report «Working with Nature-Based Solutions: Synthesis and mapping of status in the Nordics», provides an overview of the status NBS, including research, political frameworks, challenges and examples of implemented projects in the Nordics.

‘There are still several challenges as well as great opportunities for using NBS to mitigate and adapt to climate change, protect biodiversity and ensure human well-being’, says project leader Leonard Sandin.

What are nature-based solutions?

One of the first challenges to overcome when embarking on this project, was to agree on what we really mean when we talk about NBS across the different Nordic countries.

So-called nature-based solutions have nature’s own functions as their starting point and can range from protecting or restoring an existing ecosystem, to imitating natural functions. Multiple definitions exist, but at their foundation are climate mitigation and adaptation while at the same time protecting nature and biodiversity.

As an example, green spaces and rain beds in cities will, unlike concrete and asphalt, absorb rainwater and thereby avoid large floodings during heavy rainfall events. Simultaneously, they provide habitats for various species and recreation for humans.

Norway and Sweden have adopted the term NBS to a larger degree than Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Still, all five countries conserve, restore and work actively on developing sustainable use of nature, but use other terms (e.g., ‘blue-green infrastructures or solutions’, ‘restoration’, or ‘ecosystem services’) in their policies and guidelines.

Need for clear prioritization

When working with this report, the authors mapped key current research projects on NBS in the Nordics. Based on literature reviews, reports and policy documents in the Nordic countries, the authors give several recommendations for the future mainstreaming of NBS.

Some key points are:
• Clear political prioritization is needed to mainstream NBS into policy and practice
• Appropriate institutional structures, procedures and policy instruments at all governance levels are essential to facilitate the implementation of NBS
• Better funding structures for NBS are needed
• We need to develop common standards, long-term monitoring and better cost-benefit evaluations of NBS
• The knowledge base in all phases of NBS projects needs to be strengthened.

Read the full list of recommendations in the report.

Nordic programme on NBS

The project partners behind this report represent a range of Nordic countries and institutions: NIVA in Norway, Aarhus University in Denmark, Lund University in Sweden, Luke in Finland and the Agricultural University of Iceland.

The report presents the findings from the S-ITUATION project, led by NIVA and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. It is the first of five projects that are part of the Nordic programme on NBS.

Initial results were presented in November 2022, during the Nordic ministers meeting in Helsinki. Project leader Leonard Sandin (NINA) also presented the project during the UN climate conference COP27 in Egypt.

NIVA and NINA is currently also leading a follow-up project that will summarise the experiences and results for eight Nordic NBS pilots. Read more about the pilots here.
Attached files
  • The opening of Hovinbekken in Oslo, Norway, has created a new recreation area. This type of reopening of streams can contribute to better management of storm water, improved water quality and facilitate natural diversity (Photo: Isabel Seiffert-Dähn/NIVA).
Regions: Europe, Norway
Keywords: Science, Climate change, Environment - science, Public Dialogue - science, Science Policy, Applied science, Policy - applied science

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