Contributions of Nature-Based Solutions to Reduce Peoples’ Vulnerabilities to Climate Change across the Rural Global South

Aug 1, 2023

Nature-based solutions (NbS) —i.e. working with and enhancing nature to address societal challenges— feature with increasing prominence in responses to climate change, including in the adaptation plans of the most vulnerable nations. Although evidence for the effectiveness of NbS for adaptation is growing, there is less evidence on whether and how NbS reduce vulnerability to climate change in the Global South, despite this region being home to most of the world’s most climate-vulnerable people. To address this, we analysed the vulnerability-reduction outcomes of 85 nature-based interventions in rural areas across the Global South, and factors mediating their effectiveness, based on a systematic map of peer-reviewed studies encompassing a wide diversity of ecosystems, climate impacts, intervention types and institutions. We applied an analytical framework based on social-ecological systems and climate change vulnerability, coding studies with respect to six pathways of vulnerability reduction: social and ecological exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. We find widespread effectiveness of NbS in the dataset with 95% providing positive outcomes for climate change adaptation. Overall, nature-based interventions reduced vulnerability primarily by lowering ecosystem sensitivity to climate impacts (73% of interventions), followed by reducing social sensitivity (43%), reducing ecological exposure (37%), and/or increasing social adaptive capacity (34%), ecological adaptive capacity (18%) and reducing social exposure (12%). With an analysis of mediating factors, we show that vulnerability-reduction effectiveness was affected as much by social and political factors as by technical considerations. Indeed configurations of existing and introduced formal and informal institutions appear central to the efficacy and distributive effects of the studied interventions. We conclude that attention to the distinct pathways through which vulnerability is reduced can help maximise the benefits of NbS and that to be successful, careful consideration is required on their applicability to particular circumstances as well as their social dimensions.
Publication details
Net zero & sustainable development
Research paper
Seddon, Nathalie
Climate and Development

Latest news

Oxford launches revised Offsetting Principles
Oxford launches revised Offsetting Principles

As part of their net zero strategies, many companies, organisations, cities, regions and financial institutions are relying on voluntary carbon credits to offset their residual emissions. But evidence continues to cast doubt on the integrity of ... Read more

Job Opening at ONZ: Impact and Operations Officer
Job Opening at ONZ: Impact and Operations Officer

Oxford Net Zero is looking for a highly organised and motivated Impact and Operations Officer to join its team. You will be working alongside the Programme Manager, Cath Ibbotson, and the Head of Policy and Partnerships, Kaya Axelsson to ... Read more

Net Zero Regulation Stocktake Publishes Results 
Net Zero Regulation Stocktake Publishes Results 

A new report published by Oxford Net Zero presents a comprehensive ‘stocktake’ of developments in net-zero regulation across the G20 in 2023. It focuses primarily on four regulatory domains: claims and financial products standards, disclosure, ... Read more

See more news and events