This paper reviews recent European Union (EU)-supported research, policy, and practices to identify critical dimensions that still need to be addressed for greater uptake of nature-based solutions (NbS). This review is spurred by the key pillars of the European Green Deal (EGD) which rely on NbS to both preserve and restore ecosystem integrity and increase climate resilience. Although research and policy in Europe have advanced the conceptualization and operationalization of NbS, a much wider adoption is needed to reach the ambitious goals of the EGD and fulfil its vision of transforming into a sustainable, climate-neutral, climate resilient, fair, and prosperous EU by 2050.
The review identifies three core challenges to implementation: the lack of a comprehensive evidence base on the effectiveness of NbS to address targeted challenges; the need for a greater involvement of the private sector in financing NbS; and opportunities for enhancing stakeholder engagement in the successful design and implementation of NbS. The paper takes these challenges as the starting point for a broader reflection and critical discussion on the role of i) knowledge, ii) finance, including investments in NbS and divestments from nature-negative projects, and iii) governance and policy frameworks to enable the uptake of NbS. The paper also calls for future research to address the issue of NbS scale. Not only the type and location, but also the scale at which NbS are applied is critical for their effectiveness in tackling climate-related risks.