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Nature-based solutions offer new opportunities for local governments in Latin America facing problems related to the climate crisis.

Ecosystem-based adaptation: Responding to climate change

The Paris Agreement, the implementation of which is discussed at COP25 in Madrid, emphasizes the importance of adapting to the adverse effects of the climate crisis and establishes a qualitative global objective that consists of increasing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability, in a context in which all countries are faced with the impacts derived from the increase in global temperature. 

In fact, several countries carry out different adaptation programs to climate change, according to the realities of each one. In some cases they are public policies; in others, initiatives of civil organizations. Both include indigenous peoples and communities, as well as the private sector. In Latin America, coordinated work is being done between national or regional or local governments, indigenous communities and private companies.

An example of this is ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA), i.e. through the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a broader adaptation strategy to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. It includes sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that enable people to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

At the current climate summit, the project 'Articulating global agendas from the local level: Ecosystem-based adaptation as a catalyst for action to achieve global goals', which has been working for the past 10 months with local governments in Mexico (three) and Brazil (four), was presented.

The global agendas to be articulated in this project are: climate change, sustainable development objectives (SDS), biodiversity and disaster risk reduction.

"This project is a catalyst for municipal actions to achieve global goals, because it promotes the sharing of good practices among peers, fosters dialogue and cooperation, and allows replicating the incorporation of the AbE approach in the municipalities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in both countries through pilot experiences in seven communities," says Alejandra Tenorio Peña of Pronatura, a Mexican-based organization dedicated to the conservation and resilience of biodiversity and environmental services that contribute to the construction of a fair and equitable society in harmony with nature.

This project benefits municipalities and the population of identified local communities and vulnerable groups who also participate directly in the implementation of AbE measures that are defined in each strategy and are implemented.

For her part, Mariana Gianiki, environmental manager of the National Association of Municipal Environmental Bodies (Anamma), points out that the idea is to provide in-depth knowledge on climate change, hand in hand with the knowledge of indigenous communities. Her social organization works with the environmental areas of the municipalities with the objective of implementing environmental policies that preserve natural resources and improve the quality of life of the people who live in those municipalities.

Both are the coordinators of the programme and affirm that if AbE's activities are properly planned and designed, they can provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits, including improvements in livelihoods and food security, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration. "They are natural solutions," they stress. 

"The objective of this component is to strengthen the resilience of forests, ecosystems and local communities to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation within the framework of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) or national climate change adaptation plans," says Gianiki.

For the project coordinators, the participation of the municipalities in climate change adaptation is important, as they have the attribution in the territory. "They have specific responsibilities and they can, with their powers, take action," Tenorio stresses. And he adds: "The pilot municipalities were selected for their potential connection with other priority areas for conservation and restoration; and will integrate adaptation measures with an AbE approach into their local biodiversity plans or climate action plans," adds Tenorio. The goals must be reached within 32 months.

Gianiki explains that they work with the restoration of areas in agroforestry systems that will directly benefit the local civil society and the rescue of biodiversity with ecosystem services that guarantee the quality of life of these communities. He also highlights the capacity of people to adapt to this new climate configuration: "Our action is to train and sensitize people to this new climate situation; to show the possibilities we have for actions that can help minimize and adapt people to these negative changes. At the level of resilience, we are working with local and traditional knowledge to rescue the cultural origin and enhance the value of knowledge that has been forgotten in the past. 

It is the alliance to do all things, and working with municipalities can help meet the needs of many actors. Partnerships make it possible to implement the other DSOs, as well as the Paris Agreement (climate change) and the biological biodiversity agreement.  

Unlike some adaptation measures, AbE can be implemented by adopting best practice approaches for sustainable management of, for example, fisheries, forests, agricultural systems, watersheds and coastal zones. However, they will also face barriers and constraints, such as financing, land use conflicts and lack of support from local populations. Partnerships are therefore essential.