Key messages for policy makers for developing standards to support NbS uptake in urban and rural areas

9 June 2022

In recent days a workshop entitled, "Standards for Climate and Nature-based Solutions" took place (23 May) hosted by  CEN and CENELEC, which was instrumental in identifying the cross-sectoral gaps and opportunities for the development of new standards to support the uptake of nature-based solutions in urban and rural areas and achievement of global climate objectives. Key takeaways from the discussion are enumerated below:

Key Messages on NbS standards 

The standardisation of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in Europe can take a key role into green transition, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, fostering biodiversity, supporting ecological restoration, promoting better health, and promoting employment, in the face of vast challenges posed by climate, energy and food crises, and the crises generated by the effects of the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

In direct relation to the European Commission’s objectives for a greener and climate neutral European economy and closely linked to the EU taxonomy., the magic triangle of adaptation, mitigation and foster biodiversity is key to fit the NbS in the European Green Deal. This is reinforced by the long history of European regulatory framework for controlling emissions and by the most recent development of other strategies aimed at water, ecological restoration, or biodiversity, as Biodiversity strategy for 2030 or the future EU nature restoration law. Standards could also support de European biodiversity policy and the future European restauration law.

In this line, the European Commission is supporting NbS uptake and its standardisation process through EU research and innovation programmes, developing platforms (for example NetworkNature), 30+ Projects ( Clever Cities, Nature 4 Cities), technical guidelines and specifications (Technical Solution Guidebook of Connecting Nature or the Online Technical NbS Catalogue of Urbinat) and publications such as “Evaluating the impact of Nature-based Solutions: a handbook for practitioners”.

Standards can/should refer to the whole NbS process, from planning, design, implementation, and monitoring. Its role is key to mainstreaming NbS, facilitating the work of local practitioners in all stages and between different departments (planning, environment, gardening, etc.).

The biggest challenges identified to implement NbS are lack of knowledge and trust in NbS and awareness of benefits, collaborating and engaging stakeholders, political ambition, financing, monitoring 

In relation to this, the following issues are identified as key to promoting standardisation in Europe

  1. The scientific validation of the benefits of NbS and furthering of knowledge on their evaluation and monitoring.

  2.  The dissemination of the results of NbS practices, especially through good practices and learning from mistakes.

  3. To create synergies between the different standards.

  4.  To integrate socio-ecological criteria. 

  5. The holistic approach but also seeking to reduce complexity to facilitate the management of the NBSs.

  6. To address the importance of scale and differences in implementation as well as in business and financing models.

  7. Funding and financial incentives.

  8. To extend the use of the NbS and standards, stakeholders’ engagement, awareness raising and political commitment are pointed out. 

In addition, among the needs for standardisation, the experts participating in the meeting particularly point out

  1. The need to support governance and co-creation processes, improving engagement and achieving collaboration between the different stakeholders, despite local specificities. 

  2. The need of adaptation of the standards to specific sectors (urban environment, agriculture sectors, etc.)

  3. The need of new tools and methodologies to facilitating evaluation.

  4. The need of guidelines for improving financing and business models.

Although standardisation in NbS is just beginning, some standards on specific issues (such as ecological restoration) are currently being tested. Additionally, IUCN has, in recent years, developed IUCN Global Standard for NbS that “provides clear parameters for defining NbS and a common framework to help benchmark”.

Key messages by Efrén Feliu, Climate Change Manager, TECNALIA and Ángela Matesanz, Senior Researcher, TECNALIA