Nature-based Solutions – An Answer To The Climate Change Challenges In The Western Balkans

Photo illustration: Pexels

Nature-based Solutions offer a cost-effective, no-regret solution to reducing disaster risks and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. While still an emerging concept, evidence has shown the benefits of Nature-based Solutions to societies, national economies and ecosystems. They have emerged as a powerful ally to address societal challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and disaster risk reduction.

In March this year, the IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECARO) launched a regional project, supported by Sida, with the long-term goal of increasing the climate-resilience of societies in the Western Balkans – the ADAPT project: Nature-based Solutions for resilient societies in the Western Balkans.

“Nature-based Solutions open up pathways for solving multiple societal challenges all at once. They are cost-effective options that positively contribute to disaster risk management and offer long-term economic, social and environmental benefits. The protection and restoration of natural ecosystems is an economically viable and safe way to adapt to climate change and reduce risks of natural disasters,” emphasised Boris Erg, Director of the IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia opening the first virtual Nature-based Solutions webinar with a spotlight on the Western Balkan region. “Our new ADAPT initiative aims to mitigate the effects of climate change and increase societal resilience in the Western Balkans by introducing Nature-bases Solutions into relevant regional and national policies and implementing pilot projects on the ground,” he added.

The first regional Nature-based Solutions webinar presented an overview of the major challenges faced by Western Balkan countries and brought together an array of experiences from the region highlighting opportunities of utilising them for reducing disaster risks and adapting to climate change.

“The post-COVID-19 world presents a timely opportunity to alter traditional policies, investments, and decisions on an economic recovery that is more resilient. Healthy natural systems reinforce stronger and healthier societies. Nature-based Solutions offer a bridge and an opportunity to adapt to climate change effects, while improving economic recovery and sustainable livelihoods, saving lives and properties. ADAPT has great potential to contribute to Agenda 2030 and EU accession in the Western Balkans,” stressed Maria Osbeck, Senior Advisor Environment and Climate from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in her welcome remark.

Photo illustration: Pexels

To showcase existing initiatives and applicable solutions in the region, Stevko Stefanoski, Head of Department for Analysis, Assessment and Strategic Planning, Crisis Management Center offered insights on how North Macedonia has applied Nature-based Solutions for disaster risk reduction. It demonstrated that sustainable forest management is essential ingredients to manage disasters effectively and to increase the resilience of local communities. “The Republic of North Macedonia is strongly committed to fully integrate into the EU polices and our government and relevant institutions are continuously working to achieve the required standards in various fields. Implementation of Nature-based Solutions support major EU strategies, such as the European Green Deal, EU Biodiversity Strategy and EU Adaptation Strategy. The motivation for our involvement in the implementation of the ADAPT project and the application of the Nature-based Solutions standards is at the top of our priority list,” he emphasised during the presentation.

“Nature-based Solutions can be a cost-effective response especially in a transboundary context where the cost of addressing transboundary issues is not easily taken up by a single country. An official cooperation process, as in the case of the Drin Basin, can provide a framework for moving from ad-hoc NbS interventions to address issues, to NbS related policy recommendations and policy making,” stressed Dimitris Faloutsos Deputy Regional Coordinator, Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med) presenting an overview of transboundary cooperation and integrated water resources management in the Drin Basin.

There is growing evidence at the global level on and momentum behind the importance of Nature-based Solutions and sound progress with documenting, communicating and mainstreaming these solutions into climate change and sustainable development policies and disaster risk management.

The aim of the regional ADAPT initiative, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), is to apply innovative solutions to increase community resilience in the Western Balkans, for instance to a flood or drought event, reduce environmental degradation, increase social and gender equality, and thus adapt to longer-term changes over an extended period. The project will be implemented in six Western Balkan countries and will involve national and local partners, with two Nature-based Solutions pilot projects that will be executed in Albania and Serbia.

Source: IUCN