The Forgotten Solution

At the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco in 2018, nature-based solutions (or NBS for short) to the climate crisis were referred to as ‘the forgotten solution.’ The United Nations also states that nature is one of the most effective ways of combating climate change  and nature-based climate solutions (e.g., actions that are in harmony with nature, incorporate nature conservation, support biodiversity protection, etc.) could provide more than a third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed.

However, these solutions and how to implement them are not widely known or well understood. Awareness and greater understanding of nature-based solutions are needed to promote and increase adoption of these viable approaches to sustainable development. A study published in Ecology & Society in 2016 highlighted both the high potential and current barriers to implementing nature-based solutions, further illustrating the need for information and tools to help reduce barriers and increase adoption of these important principles. 

Additionally, in September 2015, Canada and all other 192 United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN General Assembly. The Agenda is a "global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030." This 2030 Agenda presents a vision of growth and development with a focus on sustainability and inclusivity.

Nature-based solutions - particularly when planned and implemented to consider Indigenous perspectives and knowledge - and their application in Alberta support many of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those that relate to sustainable cities and communities, industry, innovation, and infrastructure, climate action, life on land, clean water and sanitation, and good health and well being, including:

  • Climate action for adaptation, resilience and mitigation (SDG 13)
  • Water management (SDG 6)
  • Green space, habitats, and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Environmental quality, including air quality and waste management (SDG 11)
  • Regeneration, land-use and urban development (SDG 11)
  • Inclusive and effective governance (SDG 16)
  • Social justice, cohesion and equity (SDG 10)
  • Health and well-being (SDG 3)
  • Economic development and decent employment (SDG 8)
  • Cultural heritage and cultural diversity (SDG 11)
  • Sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12)

Turning to Nature to Build Back Better

In the 2020 fall economic update, federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland included a recommitment to NBS as part of “building back better” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this pledge, the Government of Canada plans to spend $3.19 billion to plant two billion trees, and $631 million to conserve existing native grasslands, wetlands, and peatlands, and to restore degraded ecosystems. 

With all of this in mind, Land Stewardship Centre and its partners in this initiative strongly believe that this updated Green Communities Guide, with a focus on NBS, serves as an important land-use planning, infrastructure and community design tool that will benefit communities in Alberta and our climate.