Nature-based Solutions
to Climate Change
Key messages for decision makers in 2021 and beyond

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are solutions to societal challenges that involve working with nature to deliver benefits for people and biodiversity. They include the protection, restoration or management of natural and semi-natural ecosystems; the sustainable management of productive land and seascapes; or the creation of novel ecosystems such as urban ‘green infrastructure’. Well-designed NbS can contribute to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, whilst supporting many other sustainable development goals, but poorly designed schemes can have adverse impacts. Here we present four evidence-based guidelines for delivering successful, sustainable NbS with long term benefits for people and nature.

01 NbS are not a substitute for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and must not delay urgent action to decarbonize our economies.

NbS play a vitally important role in helping to mitigate climate change this century, but their contribution is relatively small compared to what must be achieved by the rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use. Furthermore, unless we drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, global heating will adversely affect the carbon balance of many ecosystems, turning them from net sinks to net sources of GHGs

rapid phase-out of fossil fuels
02 NbS involve the protection, restoration and/or management of a wide range of natural and semi‐natural ecosystems on land and in the sea; the sustainable management of aquatic systems and working lands; or the creation of novel ecosystems in and around cities or across the wider landscape

All ecosystem types hold opportunities for NbS to enhance the provision of ecosystem services to people for supporting multiple societal challenges. It is critical that we avoid turning ecosystems from carbon sinks into carbon sources. The world’s remaining intact ecosystems and biomes are hotspots for both biodiversity and carbon storage, while also protecting people from climate change impacts. Yet many of these areas lack effective protection or are poorly managed. Degradation of ecosystems significantly reduces carbon storage and sequestration and increases vulnerability to climate-related hazards such as fire.

It is also urgent to prevent inappropriate tree planting on naturally open ecosystems such as native grasslands, savannahs and peatlands, or replacement of native forests with plantations. NbS must be valued in terms of the multiple benefits to people and biodiversity, rather than overly simplistic metrics such as numbers of trees planted and short-term carbon gains. Management at the landscape scale, accounting for and utilizing interactions between ecosystems, as well as managing for climate risks to ecosystem services, can help secure and maximize long-term benefits.

all ecosystems
03 NbS are designed, implemented, managed and monitored by or in partnership with Indigenous peoples and local communities through a process that fully respects and champions local rights and knowledge, and generates local benefits

NbS are explicitly designed and managed adaptively through just institutions to provide a range of benefits to local people, including supporting livelihoods and reducing vulnerability to climate change. They are designed to take the needs, values and knowledge of different sectors of society into account, and particularly of marginalized groups such as women. NbS are produced through partnerships between a diverse set of actors; local and Indigenous peoples should have control of the decision-making process, with financial, governance and/or in-kind support from researchers, and the private, public and charity sectors.

with, by and for people
04 NbS support or enhance biodiversity, that is, the diversity of life from the level of the gene to the level of the ecosystem

Biodiversity underpins the societal benefits derived from NbS by supporting the delivery of many ecosystem services in the short term, reducing trade-offs among services (e.g. between carbon storage and water supply), and supporting the health and resilience of ecosystems in the face of environmental change, thus increasing their capacity to deliver benefits in the long term. To sustain ecosystem health, other location-specific ecological aspects must also be considered, such as ecosystem connectivity. Therefore, successful, sustainable NbS are explicitly designed and adaptively managed to provide measurable benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem health.

underpinned by biodiversity


If you would like to become a signatory please see below


These guidelines were originally developed in February 2020 by a consortium of 20 UK-based organisations, as a letter to the President of CoP26, Alok Sharma, to encourage adoption of the guidelines by other Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In May 2020 the guidelines were adopted by the Together With Nature campaign, a call to corporate leaders to commit to four principles for investing in nature-based solutions.

For a detailed explanation of why these guidelines are needed, with full references, see the open-access peer-reviewed article “Getting the message right on nature-based solutions for climate change”. The guidelines are designed to inform the planning, implementation and evaluation of NbS projects; in order to meet the guidelines, practitioners should set goals and quantitative targets relating to each guideline, monitor progress towards these targets using comprehensive metrics, and use adaptive management to improve outcomes. The guidelines are intended to be complementary to the more detailed IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions.

The wording of the guidelines was improved in February 2021. As public and policy interest in NbS is growing rapidly, we plan to promote the adoption of these guidelines widely in the run-up to CoP26 and beyond, and we are now inviting new signatories from anywhere in the world.

Become a signatory

If you would like to add your organisation as a signatory to this letter please contact:

Nathalie Seddon |
Director, Nature-based Solutions Initiative