Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation

Ecosystem management and restoration can be a very important part of climate change adaptation, and communities can play a central role in the process, but the evidence base needs strengthening. IIED and partners are working in 12 countries to promote effective EbA and sustainable development.

July 2015 - December 2022

IIED: Xiaoting Hou Jones ([email protected]), researcher, IIED's Natural Resources research group

IUCN: Ali Raza Rizvi ([email protected]), EbA programme manager

UNEP-WCMC: Charlotte Hicks ([email protected]), programme officer, climate change and biodiversity

Ecosystem-based adaptation
A programme of work focused on people using biodiversity and ecosystem services to adapt to climate change and promote sustainable development

Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) involves people using biodiversity and ecosystem services to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and promote sustainable development.

Like community-based adaptation (CBA) it has people at its centre, and it uses participatory, culturally appropriate ways to address challenges, but there is a stronger emphasis on ecological and natural solutions.

We believe EbA has great potential to increase people's resilience and ability to adapt, but it's being overlooked in national and international policy processes.

This project aims to show climate change policymakers when and why EbA is effective – the conditions under which it works, and the benefits, costs and limitations of natural systems compared to options such as hard, infrastructural approaches – and promote the better integration of EbA principles into policy and planning.

Why now?

Field-based EbA projects are proliferating. IUCN, for example, has implemented 100 projects that directly and/or indirectly contribute towards climate change mitigation and adaptation across 109 countries. But to decide on how best to approach design and implementation, we need better consolidated, empirical, comparative analysis of their effectiveness.

Increasingly, countries are developing their own policy responses, such as National Adaptation Plans and Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), while international policy guidance on adaptation is emerging through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other multilateral processes.

The international and national architecture for financing adaptation is also being developed. We need learning on EbA effectiveness to inform these responses.

In January 2017, Hannah Reid reviewed the international policy environment and key project activities to that date, arguing that for the policy community to realise EbA's real potential as a viable response for climate vulnerable communities, knowledge gaps on how it works, when and why needed to be plugged. 

What is IIED doing?

Between 2015 and 2022, IIED, the International Union for the Conservation of nature (IUCN) and the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) are jointly implementing a project called 'Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation: strengthening the evidence and informing policy' in Asia, Africa and Central and South America.

Working with local partners, the project will gather practical evidence, explore opportunities for and obstacles to uptake, and develop policy recommendations on EbA.

Between 2015 and 2019 we worked with partners and developed country-specific policy recommendations in Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Peru. We synthesised findings on EbA effectiveness, the first-ever global scale synthesis based on perceptions and a participatory approach that engaged hundreds of local stakeholders.

We also produced practical guidance in the form of an inventory of tools, the EbA Tools Navigator, available on the Friends of EbA website. The navigator is designed to help practitioners and policymakers incorporate EbA into climate adaptation planning

Between 2020 and 2022, project partners will build on evidence and lessons learnt from the 12 countries to scale up EbA implementation in China, Peru, South Africa, and Uganda. Based on users’ demands, we will also develop a web-based EbA Tools Navigator to make it more assessable.

We have continued to communicate our findings and recommendations at key international events and through relevant platforms and networks such as the Nairobi Work Programme.

Please see the additional resources below for more information on some of our activities in key international events.

Click on the icons on the map at the top of this page to see what our partners in 12 countries are doing. You can also view our pages focusing on country work from the collection homepage.

Video interviews with IIED's Nathalie Seddon and Hannah Reid reflecting on some of the challenges of implementing ecosystem-based adaptation after the 2018 Adaptation Futures conference.


Additional resources

Podcast: Make Change Happen episode 19: A spur to action – getting money to the local level for nature and climate

Storymap: Money where it matters for nature and climate: financing EbA lessons from China, Peru, Uganda and South Africa (August 2022)

Blog: Lessons from a fruitful journey: seven years of EbA research and action, by Xiaoting Hou Jones (May 2022)

Podcast: Make Change Happen episode 14: Walking the talk of climate ambition – why that walk needs nature too (November 2021)

Nature-based solutions in action: lessons from the frontline, Xiaoting Hou Jones, Dilys Roe, Ebony Holland (2021), Case study

Blog: Working with nature to manage water resources in a changing climate, by Xiaoting Hou Jones and Eve Allen (2021)

Blog: Building wider support for ecosystem-based adaptation: how can communications help?, by Gabriela Flores (2021)

Storymap: Ecosystem-based adaptation in watersheds (2021)

Video: Nature-based solutions, from local to global (February 2021)

Storymap: Ecosystem-based adaptation and green recovery: building back better from COVID-19 (2020), Friends of EBA

Photos and video: How has ecosystem-based adaptation helped communities respond to COVID-19? (2020)

Event: 14th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA14) daily updates (2020)

Blog: CBA14: explore with us how nature-based solutions support local action for adaptation, by Charlotte Hicks and Lisa Hunsinger (2020)

Blog: Women ally with nature to adapt to climate change

Event: Nature-based solutions for climate change: from global ambition to local action (2020)

Ecosystem-based Adaptation Tools Navigator, including search functionality (.xlsm)en français (.xlsm) | en español (.xlsm)

Ecosystem-based Adaptation Tools Navigator (.xls) | en français (.xls) | en español (.xls)

Ecosystem-based Adaptation Tools Navigator tutorial (PDF) | en français (PDF) | en español (PDF)

EbA Panorama Solutions: Bangladesh | Burkina FasoKenya | Nepal | Peru (2019-20)

Nature-based solutions policy platform – interactive online policy platform on nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation

Event: IIED and partner events at COP23 (2017)

Event: 11th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA11), which focused on harnessing natural resources and ecosystems for adaptation (2017)

Poster: Making ecosystem-based adaptation effective – a framework for defining qualification criteria and quality standards (2017)

Poster: Ecosystem-based adaptation and the Paris Agreement (second edition) (2017)

Poster: Improving access to tools for Ecosystem-based Adaptation (2017)

Event: IIED and partner events at COP22 (2016)

CBA9 conference proceedings, Hannah Reid, Masroora Haque, Patrick Kirkby, Erin Roberts, Alexander Stubbings, Penny Urquhart, Casey Williams, Morgan Williams, Trudi Zundel (2015), Event Report


IIED is the project leader and works closely with IUCN and UNEP-WCMC on research methodology, and project dissemination and policy engagement at the international level. IIED take the lead on in-country work with local partners in Bangladesh, Kenya, China and South Africa. 

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) takes the the lead on in-country work through regional and country-office staff in Nepal, Senegal, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

UNEP-WCMC have a particular focus on developing practical guidance on integrating effective EbA measures into policy planning, and presenting project results to the UNFCCC and at other international events.

Country partners

In-country partners lead on action research/learning activities at existing EbA project sites, and are helping to make the case for EbA in national and sub-national climate change and development policy and planning processes. In addition to IUCN country and regional offices, in-country partners include the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Adaptation ConsortiumConservation South Africa and Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (Peru).


This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports the IKI on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.