Lessons from a fruitful journey: seven years of EbA research and action

Drawing on discussions with partners, Xiaoting Hou Jones reflects on how lessons from a seven-year project on ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation can inform policies and actions for climate and nature.

Xiaoting Hou Jones's picture
Xiaoting Hou Jones is a senior researcher (biodiversity), in IIED's Natural Resources research group
31 May 2022
Countdown to COP15
A series of blogs raising the profile of locally-led action on the road to and after the COP15 global biodiversity conference
A group of four men and women wearing overalls, one with an axe over his shoulders and one crouching down, pose for a photo. In the foreground are a few rocks, with a dusty landcsape and mountains in the background.

Working with local communities to restore drylands in South Africa as part of a climate change adaptation strategy (Photo: copyright Conservation International)

There is growing global recognition that the interlinked challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss must be tackled together.

June will see global events aiming to accelerate joined-up action, including the Stockholm+50 conference, which will see world leaders commemorate the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and urge more action on nature and climate (read our Stockhom+50 report). 

The following week, the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) meets in Bonn to discuss implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact (PDF), which has a strong focus on climate and nature.

And at the end of June, the final round of negotiations will take place in Nairobi as countries move towards adopting the post-2020 global biodiversity framework later this year.

This is the latest in a series of blogs raising the profile of locally-led action on the road to the COP15 global biodiversity conference in Kunming

Ecosystem-based approaches for climate change adaptation (EbA) work with nature to help people adapt to climate change. In close collaboration with partners, IIED has been implementing a seven-year IKI-funded project on EbA evidence and policy. The project has strengthened the evidence on the effectiveness of EbA (also known as nature-based solutions for climate change) and used that evidence to support better policies and implementation of EbA globally.

Learning from doing 

In April, project partners met to reflect on achievements, lessons learned and ways to accelerate action on climate and nature. Some key reflections include the following:

Collating evidence

We used participatory research to engage with more than 200 stakeholders, and collated evidence from 12 countries. Our evidence shows that EbA can provide wide-reaching social, environmental and economic benefits while helping people adapt to climate change. We found that EbA is often cost effective compared to other adaptation options.

This evidence fills an important knowledge gap and makes a strong case for including EbA as part of wider adaptation strategies.

Informing policy

The project used the evidence gathered to actively contribute to national policy processes, for example, NDC formulation processes in Peru, Uganda and South Africa. We also actively contributed to international policy discussions, including the UN climate change conferences and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

International discussions must be informed by experiences on the ground. On the other hand, information, tools and knowledge generated through those global discussions must also remain relevant and accessible to the local stakeholders who are critical for achieving global ambitions.

Building on strong partnerships, we used innovative communication tools and events to bridge local experiences and global discourses. For example, we developed a storymap on applying EbA approaches on watersheds, videos and interactive online events.


In 2020, IIED continued to improve evidence and stimulate dialogues on how people are working with nature to tackle three interlinked pressing global challenges: the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and poverty

Supporting implementation

The project collated more than 200 EbA-relevant tools and methods and developed a navigator to help practitioners, planners, decision makers and researchers find and understand available tools and methods.

The project supported diverse stakeholders to champion and implement EbA in their respective countries. For example, in Chile, a virtual training course on EbA engaged the private sector, local communities and governments and built a network of local EbA champions. In South Africa and China, the project supported local communities, Indigenous Peoples and local governments to champion and implement EbA activities.

In all project countries, women are playing an active role in mobilising local communities and championing ecosystem-based approaches that can bring long-term benefits for their families and communities.

Looking forward

Drawing on experiences from the past seven years, project partners identified two key areas where collaborative action can make a difference.

Putting money where it matters

During last November's COP26, political leaders called for more actions and financing for nature and climate, including EbA.

The project showed that it is crucial for funding to reach local stakeholders, especially the local communities and Indigenous Peoples who are bearing the brunt of impacts and who are key to turning ambition into action. 

We documented a range of promising finance delivery mechanisms that can make money flow better to local actors, including a small grants facility in South Africa, a smallholder farmers’ network in China, water funds in Peru and a community environment conservation fund in Uganda.

Integrated approaches

Integrated approaches on climate and nature, including EbA, work best when they are delivered across sectors. In other words, those who work on nature must consider climate risks, those who work on climate must understand the importance of nature, and people working in agriculture, development, infrastructure, urban planning and other fields need to consider how their sector intersects with nature and climate.

Those who are already implementing and championing EbA need to reach out and engage with those who are not. This entails using strategic communications, growing a community of EbA practice to share lessons learnt, and finding ways to better evaluate nature, climate and development activities so they incorporate social, ecological and climatic risks and indicators.

Although our project ends this year, it offers useful insights to global leaders as they seek to deliver on their promises on climate and nature.

The collaboration, networks and knowledge nurtured through the project will continue to play a small but important part in delivering the locally-led actions that are indispensable if these ambitions are to come to fruition.