Nature-Based Solutions in the EU: Innovating with nature to address social, economic and environmental challenges

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Abstract

Contemporary societies are facing a broad range of challenges, from pressures on human health and well-being to natural capital depletion, and the security of food, water and energy. These challenges are deeply intertwined with global processes, such as climate change and with local events such as natural disasters. The EU's research & innovation (R&I) policy is now seeking to address these challenges from a new perspective, with Nature-Based Solutions, and turn them into innovation opportunities that optimise the synergies between nature, society and the economy. Nature-Based Solutions can be an opportunity for innovation, and are here promoted by both policymakers and practitioners as a cost-effective way of creating a greener, more sustainable, and more competitive economy.

Since 2013, the European Commission has devoted particular attention to Nature-Based Solutions through consultations and dialogues that sought to make the concept of these solutions more concrete and to define the concept's place within the spectrum of ecosystem-based approaches. In 2014, the Commission launched an expert group, which conducted further analysis, and made recommendations to help increase the use of Nature-Based Solutions and bring nature back into cities. In 2015, a survey was conducted on citizens' views and perceptions of 'Nature in Cities' to provide further insight for future work. Based on these elements and on results from running EU projects, the Commission has developed an R&I agenda for Nature-Based Solutions and has published targeted calls for proposals for large-scale demonstration projects in this field in 2016 and 2017.

Additional R&I actions at EU level that promote systemic Nature-Based Solutions and their benefits to cities and territories are planned with the aim to improve the implementation capacity and evidence base for deploying Nature-Based Solutions and developing corresponding future markets. They are also expected to foster an interdisciplinary R&I and stakeholder community and the exchange of good practices in this field, as well as help shaping and implementing international R&I agendas on Nature-Based Solutions.

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