Header photo: Nationaal park de Biesbosch, © Stan Versluis via Unsplash

Climate change and biodiversity loss are putting pressure on the liveability of deltas worldwide. This also has major consequences in the Netherlands. An integrated approach aimed at sustainable and climate-proof use of our land and water systems is necessary. IUCN NL is one of the partners in the NL2120 consortium, which is researching how we can use nature-based solutions to keep our Dutch delta attractive to live and invest in.

NL2120 is an innovative collaboration of governments, civil society organisations, companies and knowledge and educational institutes to jointly research how to upscale, outscale and deepscale ecosystem-based approaches to tackle societal challenges: ‘nature-based solutions’. Examples include coastal reinforcement with sand and silt, such as with the sand motor, natural buffer areas to protect against river flooding and the use of smart green solutions to capture water and cool cities.

IUCN NL: advocate of nature-based solutions

IUCN NL has long been an advocate of nature-based solutions and champions this approach at various levels, both in the Netherlands and in the southern hemisphere. We are committed to healthy ecosystems for climate mitigation and adaptation where the rights of original inhabitants and local communities are paramount. We notice that nature-based solutions are increasingly accepted and are seen as a catalyst for achieving the SDGs, the UN Climate and Biodiversity Convention and the EU Green Deal, among others.

Nature-based solutions are important because they harness the power of nature as an ally in solving various environmental problems, such as subsidence, coastal erosion, weakened agricultural land, drought, floods and animal pests. Nature-based solutions often go hand-in-hand with addressing the causes and consequences of climate change.

How are nature-based solutions defined?

The definition of nature-based solutions most widely used worldwide is that of IUCN. It was adopted as part of the first edition of the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions in 2020 at the World Conservation Congress by the 1,400-plus IUCN members, including governments and civil society organisations. The second edition of the Standard will be published in 2025.

Definition nature-based solutions:

Nature-based solutions are measures to protect, sustainably manage and restore (semi-)natural ecosystems so that societal problems are effectively solved for the benefit of people and nature.

Eight criteria for nature-based solutions

IUCN defines eight criteria for successful nature-based solutions (NbS).

  1. NbS effectively address societal challenges
  2. Design of NbS is informed by scale
  3. NbS result in a net gain to biodiversity and ecosystem integrity
  4. NbS are economically viable
  5. NbS are based on inclusive, transparent and empowering governance processes
  6. NbS equitably balance trade-offs between achievement of their primary goal(s) and the continued provision of multiple benefits
  7. NbS are managed adaptively, based on evidence
  8. NbS are sustainable and mainstreamed within an appropriate jurisdictional context

Examples of types of nature-based solutions in the Netherlands

Wageningen University & Research published ten categories for nature-based solutions in the Dutch situation in February 2024. The following ten categories are distinguished:

  • Dynamic nature management
  • Natural coastal defenses
  • Bio-based building
  • Restoring river mouths
  • Nature-positive food production
  • Rewetting
  • (Re)design of streams and rivers
  • Natural water purification
  • Green-blue infrastructure
  • Freshwater storage

IUCN NL’s role in NL2120

To make nature-based solutions mainstreams within and across all levels of government and across all sectors, a boost is needed. NL2120’s integrated approach enriches and deepens understanding and applies general knowledge in a local context, by combining knowledge development and practical experience. With the know-how and experience developed, the programme contributes to policy choices for a future-proof spatial planning of the Netherlands. IUCN NL’s experience in nature-based solutions contributes to this, in particular by contributing to institutional knowledge, knowledge integration, valorisation and knowledge disclosure.

More information

Maxime Eiselin
Senior Expert Nature-based Solutions
Caspar Verwer
Senior Expert Nature Conservation