This brief introduces a four-part series exploring nature-based solutions (NbS). Responding to identified gaps in existing knowledge about the social and economic sustainability aspects of NbS, the series seeks to explore their costs and benefits and how they can be developed without leaving anyone behind. Human activity has modified and deteriorated natural ecosystems in ways that reduce resilience and exacerbate environmental and climate problems. Physical measures to protect, manage and restore these ecosystems that also address societal challenges in sustainable ways and bring biodiversity benefits are sometimes referred to as nature-based solutions (NbS). Despite increased interest in and a strong push for NbS, there are many challenges and knowledge gaps in their research and implementation.
If NbS are to become a focus for international development work, then “non-Western” voices and approaches to nature must be given more of a platform and role in shaping the science and practice of them. Awareness also needs to be raised about the fact that the framing of “solutions” and “services” may be downplaying nature’s contributions, values and processes, which are not measured in the same terms by different societies and communities across the “global South” and “global North”. Discussions around finance need to better contemplate equity and scalar challenges. Critical approaches to finance are needed to reflect upon the actors and mechanisms that can ensure a more effective implementation of NbS without compromising on social and economic goals.