Institute for Global Prosperity – Written evidence (NSD0025)

 

Submitted by Dame Professor Henrietta Moore, Director and Founder of the Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London

 

How should nature-based solutions be planned and monitored?

The Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) aims to redesign prosperity for the 21st century. Over the past six years, IGP has been conceptualising and operationalising prosperity as a context-specific practice through the creation of localised Prosperity Indexes, paying particular attention to the importance of co-design and deliberative democracy as imperatives for implementing policy in transparent and inclusive ways (Moore and Mintchev 2021). IGP is further committed to building mechanisms for whole systems change through participatory research and collaboration, working closely with citizen social scientists and building partnerships such as the FastForward 2030 network of entrepreneurs and innovators. As an evidenced-based, policy facing institute, we not only work with local communities, businesses and governmental structures, but also contribute to pressing public debates of international significance, such as the recently published Dasgupta Review of the Economics of Biodiversity of which I was on the Advisory Panel. The following builds upon these expertise and experiences to argue that using Nature Based Solutions as a means for building pathways to net carbon zero and socio-ecological prosperity should be as much about inclusive co-design and governance as it is about the implementation of technocratic strategies for climate adaptation.

 

As the climate and biodiversity emergency looms, the imperative for building sustainable, resilient and regenerative futures for ecological and societal wellbeing has never been greater. By learning from and harnessing nature to create sustainable socio-ecological systems, Nature Based Solutions are an important conduit for achieving this vision. Indeed, research has shown the multifaceted and interconnected benefits of such approaches, having the potential to sequester CO2 and augment ecosystem services (Keesstra et al 2018), increase agricultural resilience and food security (Artmann and Sartison 2018; Lunn-Rockliffe et al. 2020), improve human health through the creation of green spaces and reduction of pollution (Kolokotsa et al. 2020; Lafortezza and Sanesi 2019), and create a green jobs revolution rooted in calls for a new economy that inherently values nature (Dasguta 2021).

 

Yet, whilst the science, technology, capacity and entrepreneurial visions exist to implement novel Nature Based Solutions and tackle the climate crisis, adaptation action has been slow and continues to fall behind the escalating severity of climate risks (CRIA 2021). Siloed thinking and short-sighted policy decisions have fallen short of executing the serious change needed, with dire consequences not only for future generations, but also for livelihood wellbeing and the productivity of citizens today. One only needs to examine the increasing risks associated with flooding across the UK, where domestic and industrial infrastructure built on drained wetlands could be subject to transport failures, power outages, disruptions to key communication services and displace hundreds of thousands of people. The 2015/2016 winter floods, for example, resulted in £1.6 billion worth of damages, with 16,000 homes being destroyed and nearly 5000 businesses being significantly impacted (Marsh et al 2016). Additionally, there was an estimated 30% increase in topsoil degradation, a precious resource that is paramount for food production and carbon sequestration.

 

The reasons for slow action are multifaceted and difficult to disentangle, but appear in part be embedded in processes of political alienation, the mistrust of experts and the spread of misinformation. Political distrust has left people sceptical of politics so much so that even modest climate change policy is met with suspicion, controversy or an aversion to compromise (e.g. LGC 2021). Thus, this is not an issue of finding effective Nature Based Solutions, it is also a question of governance, empowerment and co-design.

 

Inspiration for the much-needed transformative initiatives of this kind can be found in nature and place-based community programmes where citizens themselves are empowered to act (IPPR 2021). For example, residents in Pickering, Yorkshire, came together after repeated bouts of flooding that had caused up to £2.1 billion in damages across the Humber Region. With a lack of funds for the construction of a concrete dam, local authorities and community members worked to implement a number of Nature Based Solutions (DEFRA 2015). This included the construction of large woody debris dams, restoring wetlands and planting of trees to dramatically improve water retention and hydrological functions of the landscape. Not only has the scheme successfully reduced flood risk in area from 25% to 4%, it has also created a range of new habitats for wildlife and increased the potential for carbon sequestration.

 

Similar examples of interconnected, place-based thinking come from Community-Supported Agriculture initiatives – farms that are set up and managed by local communities in ways that promote local agricultural production as a shared endeavour (Saltmarsh et al. 2011). Risk and rewards are shared across the community and the relationship between producer and consumer is blurred. These initiatives provide local jobs, affordable access to locally grown organic foods and offer people access to green spaces and fresh air with numerous health benefits. The elimination of chemical fertiliser and reduction of transport and packaging through the shortening of supply chains reduces toxic run off, carbon emissions and waste whilst simultaneously building ecological resilience through regenerative practice.

 

These examples offer a glimpse into the kind interconnected approaches that are needed to build pathways towards a carbon zero economy, climate risk preparedness and socio-natural prosperity. With time being of the essence, however, we need bold government backed initiatives in order to mobilise society on a far greater scale. Such an approach must not foist preconceived technologies or strategies of climate change adaptation into different regions. Rather, we must develop a fundamentally new relationship between people, science and policy by deploying a method of co-design aimed at measuring, assessing and building resilient and prosperous futures.

 

This endeavour sits at the core of ongoing work at IGP that critically examines radically alternative frameworks for whole systems change geared towards creating sustainable, equitable and resilient forms of socio-natural prosperity. IGP’s work not only involves researching and presenting the case for alternative futures, but also the taking of pragmatic steps to convert ideas into action (Moore and Mintchev, 2021). At present, knowledge about the intertwined climate and biodiversity emergencies resides asymmetrically with scientific, government and international organisations (Dasgupta, 2021), leaving local communities politically disengaged and disempowered. Socio-natural prosperity is an emergent feature of a whole ecology, and recognising this has consequences for theories of change, for operationalising ecological and societal prosperity and for policy formation (Moore and Mintchev, 2021).

 

In light of this, IGP’s work focusses on localised knowledge creation and strategy implementation, beginning with the specifics of location and recognising that the aspirations, values, practices, and systems that shape understandings of social and ecological wellbeing will differ according to context. Our emphasis is therefore on three interlinked concepts: (1) Informed localised agency (working with and through local communities and visionary entrepreneurs to design pathways to future prosperity); (2) Plurality and complexity (progress is not linear, prosperity is not ‘one size fits all’; we should build frameworks that value change, contingency, and plurality); (3) Multiple systems, scales and actors (prosperity results from complex interactions between different actors/systems, including local and national government, business, education systems, health services, social capital, inward investment, individuals, civil society, and community engagements).

 

Locally sensitive Prosperity Indexes, such as those the IGP has been producing with communities in East London (Moore and Woodcraft 2018), would more readily allow everyone to monitor progress in their communities towards net zero and biodiversity restitution. Thus, whilst new technologies, economic infrastructures and government initiatives that foreground nature as a primary solution are paramount for building pathways to a zero-carbon economy – they will only be effective if we place the tools for designing and implementing such solutions in the hands of local communities.

 

10 September 2021

 

 

References

Artmann, M., Sartison, K., 2018. The role of urban agriculture as a nature-based solution: A review for developing a systemic assessment framework. Sustainability 10(6), p.1937.

 

CRIA 2021. Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk. Online repor.t. Available at https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/independent-assessment-of-uk-climate-risk/. Accessed 7.9.21

 

DEFRA 2015. Defra FCERM Multi-objective Flood Management Demonstration project . Online report. Available at https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/documents/242/FR_STF_Pickering_P2_May2015_MWh9JJA.pdf Accessed 7.9.21

 

IPPR 2021. The Climate Commons. How Communities Can Thrive in a Climate Changing World. Online Report. Available at https://www.ippr.org/files/2021-03/ejc-climate-communities-mar21.pdf/ Accessed 7.9.21

 

Keesstra, S., Nunes, J., Novara, A., Finger, D., Avelar, D., Kalantari, Z. and Cerdà, A., 2018. The superior effect of nature based solutions in land management for enhancing ecosystem services. Science of the Total Environment 610, 997-1009.

 

Kolokotsa, D., Lilli, A.Α., Lilli, M.A. and Nikolaidis, N.P., 2020. On the impact of nature-based solutions on citizens’ health & well being. Energy and Buildings,110527.

 

Lafortezza, R. and Sanesi, G., 2019. Nature-based solutions: Settling the issue of sustainable urbanization. Environmental research 172, 394-398

 

LCG 2021. The low traffic neighbourhood ‘culture war’. Online article. Available at https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/the-low-traffic-neighbourhood-culture-war-25-05-2021/. Accessed 7.9.21

 

Marsh, T.J.1, Kirby, C.2, Muchan, K.1, Barker, L.1, Henderson, E.2 and Hannaford, J.1 2016. The winter floods of 2015/2016 in the UK - a review. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK.

 

Moore, H. L., Woodcraft, S. 2018. Placing Sustainable Prosperity in East London: Local Meanings and ‘Sticky’ Measures of the Good Life. City & Society 31, 275–298.

 

Moore, H. L., Mintchev, N. 2021. What is prosperity? London: Institute for Global Prosperity.

 

Saltmarsh, N., Meldrum, J., Longhurst, N. 2011. The impact of community supported agriculture. Online report. Available at https://communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/The-impact-of-community-supported-agriculture.pdf Accessed 7.9.21