Nature as buffer against climate change

February 13, 2020

Areas in which natural processes are given space may function as buffer against climate change. Ever since 2008, the Dutch coalition for Natuurlijke Klimaatbuffers has been working in more than 70 projects on ‘nature-based climate buffers’. A recent evaluation by Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR) indicates a large potential to establish nature-based climate buffers. This option is, however, usually not included in regular planning processes.

Giving space to natural processes is an actual way to approach adaptation to climate change. Wageningen University & Research have recently presented a vision for the Netherlands in 2120, in which nature-based solutions take the lead. Nature-based climate buffers can catch and store water, counterbalance water shortages and reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses.

Standard option

According to WENR, the concept of ‘nature-based climate buffers’ has a great potential, but it still is not a regular part of spatial planning. WENR evaluated (report in Dutch) the impact of natural climate buffers and how this approach could become embedded standard within spatial policy and in water-and nature management. The results illustrate the contribution made by nature-based solutions to climate adaptation. These can also generate improvements of water safety and water supply. Foreshores for dykes, recovery of salt marshes, sand nourishments, retaining peak water flows around cities and managing floodplains of rivers have proven to work successfully as climate buffers.

Combination with spatial functions

Other spatial needs can also be taken care of through the realisation of natural climate buffers. To include this approach in planning procedures, is gaining momentum. Provinces and water boards are collaborating with nature organisations in several regions, in order to make alternative plans that are inspired by natural processes. The evaluation offers these parties recommendations on how to include this in the overall planning. According to WENR, for natural measures to be connected real strongly with regional planning, a national more top-down approach is also called for.

Climate-proof in 2120

The mission of the Dutch coalition ‘Natuurlijke Klimaatbuffers’ is achievable, WENR's evaluation concludes. The nature-based solutions that contribute to climate resilience and that will also make biodiversity self-evident can be operational before 2022. The main challenge for the coming years, is to make the next step from successful initiatives and to establish an integrated plan for this on the national level. The nature-based climate buffers that have been realised are great examples for the steps to be taken towards a climate-proof Netherlands in 2120.

The evaluation by WENR has been conducted with funding of Life IP Deltanatuur. More examples on Building with Nature in English see here