Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the climate and biodiversity crises are ongoing. Transformative action to address these interrelated crises is needed now more than ever. To this end, on 7-9 July the Nature-based Solutions Initiative will be hosting a virtual event, NbS Digital Dialogues, to discuss key issues around NbS and draw conclusions that can be fed into the UN summits on biodiversity and climate change in late 2020/early 2021. NbS Digital Dialogues will serve as a primer to the Nature-based Solutions Conference, now postponed to July 2021, with many of our speakers for the 2021 conference contributing to this virtual event as well.


During the course of six 75-minute sessions over three days, we will discuss each of four key guidelines for successful, sustainable nature-based solutions (NbS) outlined in www.nbsguidelines.info and we will debate the main challenges around the implementation, financing and governance of NbS, and how to overcome them. We will also reflect on the role of NbS for economic recovery from COVID-19 across the world.

Sessions will involve 4-5 short presentations, a facilitated panel discussion, Q&A sessions with our remote audience, and poster sessions. Our facilitators and speakers are world-leading experts from across science, policy and practice working at the nexus of climate change, biodiversity and development.

Download the full programme

We are asking for a small contribution to overheads associated with organising and hosting this conference. Please contact us if you require anymore information or would like to ask further questions about the programme, nbsconference@zoo.ox.ac.uk

Please register here

Keynote speakers

Keynotes will be delivered at the start of days 1 and 2, and at the end of day 3. Each of our eminent speakers will reflect on the role of nature-based solutions for sustainable development, post-covid-19, and what it will take to scale them up.



Outcomes from each session will be synthesised in policy briefs targeted at the UN meetings late in 2020/early 2021 and made available to a wide audience through a creative outreach campaign.

Session 01 7th July

NbS for climate change mitigation

Guiding principle 01: NbS are not a substitute for a rapid fossil fuel phase-out and must not delay urgent action to decarbonise our economies

Nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation are currently in the limelight, but uncertainties on the potential contribution of NbS to tackling climate change and serious concerns about trade-offs and unintended consequences remain. In this session, we will discuss current understanding of the mitigation potential of NbS, highlighting their role in reducing peak warming and enabling long term cooling. We will then discuss major issues around scaling up bioenergy, BECCS, intensifying agriculture, and afforestation including inappropriate tree-planting on naturally open ecosystems such as grasslands, savannas, and peatlands. Finally, we will highlight the moral hazard of promoting NbS at the expense of delaying fossil fuel emissions reductions.

We will ask: Is biological offsetting of carbon emissions good or bad?

Key reading

  • Griscom, B. W. et al. (2020). National mitigation potential from natural climate solutions in the tropics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375, 20190126. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126
  • Griscom, B.W.  et al. (2017) Natural climate solutions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 114, 11645– 11650. https://www.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1710465114
  • IPCC (2018). Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Retrieved from: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  • Lewis, S.L., C.E. Wheeler, E.T.A. et al. (2019) Restoring natural forest is the best way to remove atmospheric carbon. Nature 568, 25-28. https://www.doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01026-8.
  • Seddon, N. et al. (2020). Understanding the value and limits of nature-based solutions to climate change and other global challenges. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B375, 20190120. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0120
Session 02 7th July

NbS in all ecosystems

Guiding principle 02: Successful, sustainable NbS involve the protection and/or restoration of a wide range of naturally occurring ecosystems on land and in the sea, not only forests

Currently, high-level multilateral pledges for nature focus on forests. In this session, we will highlight how other ecosystems provide important carbon storage services, help society adapt to climate change, are rich in biodiversity, and support the livelihoods of millions of people. We will highlight the vital role of drylands, freshwater, coastal and marine habitats in storing carbon and shielding humans from climate change impacts and promoting resilient landscapes that support livelihoods. In particular, we will focus on how this knowledge can be harnessed in a landscape planning context to prioritize nature-based solutions.

We will ask: How should ecosystems be prioritised for restoration and protection? Who should decide/or/through what modes of governance should these decisions be made?

Key reading

  • Arkema, K. K. et al. (2013). Coastal habitats shield people and property from sea-level rise and storms. Nature Climate Change3(10), 913-918. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1944
  • Barlow, J. et al. (2019). Clarifying Amazonia’s burning crisis. Global Change Biologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14872
  • Bengtsson, J. et al. (2019). Grasslands—more important for ecosystem services than you might think. Ecosphere, 10, e02582. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2582
  • Selig, E. R. et al. (2019). Mapping global human dependence on marine ecosystems. Conservation Letters, 12, e12617. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12617
  • Martin, T. G., & Watson, J. E. (2016). Intact ecosystems provide the best defence against climate change. Nature Climate Change, 6, 122-124. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2918
  • Maxwell, S. L. et al. (2019). Degradation and forgone removals increase the carbon impact of intact forest loss by 626%. Science Advances, 5, eaax2546. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aax2546
  • Veldman, J. W. et al. (2015). Where tree planting and forest expansion are bad for biodiversity and ecosystem services. BioScience, 65, 1011-1018. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biv118
  • Mcleod, E. et al. (2011). A blueprint for blue carbon: toward an improved understanding of the role of vegetated coastal habitats in sequestering CO2. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 9, 552-560. https://doi.org/10.1890/110004
  • Soto-Navarro, C. et al. (2020). Mapping co-benefits for carbon storage and biodiversity to inform conservation policy and action. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B375(1794), 20190128. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0128
  • Tan, L. et al. (2019). Conversion of coastal wetlands, riparian wetlands, and peatlands increases greenhouse gas emissions: A global meta‐analysis. Global Change Biologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14933
  • Van Coppenolle, R., & Temmerman, S. (2020). Identifying global hotspots where coastal wetland conservation can contribute to nature-based mitigation of coastal flood risks. Global and Planetary Change, 103125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2020.10312
  • Watson, J. E. et al. (2018). The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2, 599-610. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0490-x
  • EcoShape (2018). Houtrib Dike Pilot Project Summary and Business case
  • de Vriend et al. (2014). ‘Building with nature’: the new Dutch
    approach to coastal and river works. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Civil Engineering, 167(1), 18-24. https://doi.org/10.1680/cien.13.00003
  • FAO (2019). Trees, forests and land use in drylands: the first global assessment –  Full report. FAO Forestry Paper No. 184. Rome.http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/ca7148en/
  • Berrahmouni, N. et al. (2015). Global guidelines for the restoration of degraded forests and landscapes in drylands: Building resilience and benefiting livelihoods. Forestry Paper 175. Rome, FAO. 149 pp. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5036e.pdf
  • Sacande M. and Berrahmouni N. (2016). Community participation and ecological criteria for selecting species and restoring natural capital with native species in the Sahel. Restoration Ecology. DOI. 10.1111/ rec.12335
  • Berrahmouni N. et al. (2016). Building Africa’s Great Green Wall : Restoring degraded drylands for stronger and more resilient communities. Rome, FAO. Rome. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6476e.pdf
  • Sacande M. et al. (2020). Restoration in Action Against Desertification. A manual for large-scale restoration to support rural communities’ resilience in Africa’s Great Green Wall. Rome, FAO. 92 pp. http://www.fao.org/3/ca6932en/ca6932en.pdf. For further information: www.fao.org/in-action/action-against-desertification
Session 03 8th July

NbS with, by and for people

Guiding principle 03: Successful, sustainable NbS are implemented with engagement and consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, apply robust social safeguards, and are designed to build human capacity to adapt to climate change

What makes the NbS framing different and powerful? The answer is people. In this session, we will discuss how Indigenous Peoples and local communities drive transformative NbS. With reference to diverse examples from across the globe, we will discuss why local knowledge and engagement, leadership and collective action are central to nature-based solutions for climate change and will highlight the importance of recognising, respecting and upholding people’s livelihoods and rights.

We will ask: How can Indigenous Peoples and local communities be empowered to engage with other stakeholders and drive the delivery of NbS? What structures enable such agency to emerge?

Key reading

  • Fa, J. E. et al. (2019). Importance of Indigenous Peoples’ lands for the conservation of Intact Forest Landscapes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environmenthttps://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2148
  • Garnett, S. T. et al. (2018). A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation. Nature Sustainability, 1, 369. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0100-6
  • Krasny, M. E., Russ, A., Tidball, K. G., & Elmqvist, T. (2014). Civic ecology practices: Participatory approaches to generating and measuring ecosystem services in cities. Ecosystem Services. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2013.11.002
  • Pinho, P. F., Marengo, J. A., & Smith, M. S. (2015). Complex socio-ecological dynamics driven by extreme events in the Amazon. Regional Environmental Change. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-014-0659-z
  • Lavorel, S., Locatelli, B., Colloff, M. J., & Bruley, E. (2020). Co-producing ecosystem services for adapting to climate change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0119
  • Roberts, D., Boon, R., Diederichs, N., Douwes, E., Govender, N., Mcinnes, A., … Spires, M. (2012). Exploring ecosystem-based adaptation in Durban, South Africa: “learning-by-doing” at the local government coal face. Environment and Urbanization, 24(1), 167–195. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247811431412
  • Walker, W. S. et al. (2020). The role of forest conversion, degradation, and disturbance in the carbon dynamics of Amazon indigenous territories and protected areas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117, 3015–3025. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1913321117
  • Westholm, L. 2016. Fruits from the forest and the fields: forest conservation policies andintersecting social inequalities in Burkina Faso’s REDD+ program. International Forestry Review 18(4):511–521.
Session 04 8th July

Biodiversity and NbS

Guiding principle 04: Successful, sustainable NbS sustain, enhance or support biodiversity

Biodiversity plays a vital role in the healthy functioning and resilience of ecosystems. It secures the flow of essential services, reduces trade-offs among them, and supports human capacity to adapt to climate change. In this session, we will highlight the contribution of biodiversity to climate mitigation and/or adaptation in the context of protecting intact ecosystems, restoring landscapes and sustaining agriculture. Then we will discuss how knowledge of biodiversity’s importance could better inform the policy and practice of NbS. We will discuss interlinkages between the CBD’s Global Biodiversity Framework and the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement and reflect on how best to overcome key obstacles to biodiversity-based policy targets.

We will ask: as we take NbS to scale, how do we ensure that they support biodiversity and are resilient in a rapidly changing world?

Key reading

Session 05 9th July

Financing NbS

Overcoming obstacles and mobilizing investments for successful, sustainable NbS

To mobilize large and sustainable flows of finance to nature-based solutions we need to break out of existing paradigms. In this session, we will discuss what this paradigm-shift looks like across companies and industries, financial institutions, private investors, governments, multilateral agencies and the global community.

We will ask: what role can and should nature-based solutions play in enabling a green recovery post-Covid19?

Key reading

  • Keeler, B.L., Hamel, P., McPhearson, T., Hamann, M.H., Donahue, M.L., Prado, K.A.M., Arkema, K.K., Bratman, G.N., Brauman, K.A., Finlay, J.C. and Guerry, A.D., 2019. Social-ecological and technological factors moderate the value of urban nature. Nature Sustainability2(1), pp.29-38. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0202-1
  • Frantzeskaki, N., McPhearson, T., Collier, M.J., Kendal, D., Bulkeley, H., Dumitru, A., Walsh, C., Noble, K., Van Wyk, E., Ordóñez, C. and Oke, C., 2019. Nature-based solutions for urban climate change adaptation: linking science, policy, and practice communities for evidence-based decision-making. BioScience69(6), pp.455-466. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz042
  • Andersson, E., Langemeyer, J., Borgström, S., McPhearson, T., Haase, D., Kronenberg, J., Barton, D.N., Davis, M., Naumann, S., Röschel, L. and Baró, F., 2019. Enabling green and blue infrastructure to improve contributions to human well-being and equity in urban systems. BioScience69(7), pp.566-574. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz058
Session 06 9th July

Governing NbS

Overcoming the governance challenges of taking Nature-based Solutions to scale

Nature-based solutions depend on innovative and effective governance at local, national, and transnational scales. In this session, we will compare the successes and challenges in the governance of nature-based solutions across a diverse array of countries facing different challenges for sustainable development and we will explore which models can be replicated and scaled up. Looking ahead to the CBD COP15 and UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, we will discuss what we can learn from these experiences to further catalyse and scale-up effective NbS.

We will ask:  What are some key innovations or successes in NbS governance? What can COP26 and/or COP15 do to support success at the national level?