Pioneering Nature-based Solutions for Resilient Infrastructure

An estimated USD 80 trillion of new investment is required globally in new and existing infrastructure over the next 15 years. Governments in low- and middle-Income countries (LMICs) are already investing around USD 1 trillion (3.4 - 5% of their GDP) in infrastructure annually. However, disruptions caused due to climate extremes add further stress on LMICs. According to a World Bank report, infrastructure disruptions impose costs between $391 billion and $647 billion a year on households and firms in LMICs. It is important that the cost of resilience be factored into the planning and design of infrastructure systems and contribute to the achievement of the international commitments such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are essential components of the overall global effort to achieve the targets and goals of these international commitments. NbS uses ecosystem services to address hazards and reduce disaster risk such as flooding, erosion and landslides to protect people and infrastructure. NBS for disaster risk reduction includes ecosystem services such as restoring mangroves along coastlines to reduce the impact of waves and storm surge on the shoreline to prevent flooding and preserving wetlands, forests and floodplains. With increasing environmental degradation some of these natural disaster safeguards are deteriorating, resulting in an increased risk of infrastructure failure. It is imperative to adopt a nature-based approach that promotes infrastructure development and protects and utilizes these natural safeguards which act as disaster buffers to protect people and infrastructure.

Over the past decade, NbS have emerged as an effective mechanism to boost resilience and meet some of the extra costs required for resilient infrastructure planning. In the face of climate related-uncertainties, NbS are a seemingly pragmatic way forward, to adapt to climate variabilities as compared to static grey infrastructure solutions like concrete seawalls, levees, dams, embankments, etc. They are widely regarded as important tools for climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction around the world. They attempt to deliver economic, societal, and environmental co- benefits by promoting biodiversity and providing diverse ecosystem services, and they are designed to handle various environmental concerns in a resource-efficient and flexible manner. They also offer several chances for stakeholders and civil society to participate actively, such as in the co-creation and co-design of potential solutions.

NbS poses significant challenges and opportunities at every stage of the project life cycle that requires more open-ended, non-linear governance approaches. These include tackling knowledge gaps; managing trade-offs; implementing successful actions; monitoring outcomes; dealing with natural elements; and financing projects. Therefore, to be successful, governance of NbS requires active cooperation and coordinated action between stakeholders whose priorities, interest, or values may not align, or may even conflict. To this end, this session will focus on the challenges and key actions that need to be taken at each stage of a project life cycle for nature-based solutions in the context of resilient infrastructure. The session will discuss key learnings from case studies around the world and how recommended actions have been incorporated into real projects in complementarity with other grey infrastructure initiatives.