Nature-based Solutions for Hong Kong – corporatese jargon or worthwhile? Or both!

I’ve lately noticed mention of nature-based solutions, abbreviated to NbS, regarding conservation ideas for Hong Kong. It seems all very well as an idea, but can it widely catch on – or is it fancypants jargon, which won’t appeal to many beyond those fond of conservation by Powerpoint presentations etc?

After all, NbS does include another abbreviation, BS!

So, just what are these new-fangled solutions to our world’s ills?

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are beginning to gain traction around the world. NbS seek to address social, economic and environmental challenges and create benefits for people and biodiversity by using natural systems and processes instead of conventional engineered solutions. For example, conserving wetlands can enhance climate resilience – wetlands are able to store water from excessive rainfall which reduces the risk of flooding; they also provide habitats for plants and wildlife.

NbS are also seen as an important way to achieve the targets of the Convention of Biological Diversity’s Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

WWF’s Conservation News: Embracing Nature-based Solutions – email I received from WWF HK on 2 May 2024

Triple benefits, climate resilience, mainstreaming….

Just days earlier, I received an email about NbS from a pr company hoping to initiate a positively spinning media article:

Dear Editor,

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) just released its State of the Climate in Asia report, which revealed that Asia-Pacific (APAC) remained the most disaster-impacted region in 2023

Floods, storms, and heatwaves continue to exact a heavy toll on both human lives and economies. What’s particularly concerning is the disproportionate impact on vulnerable countries in the region – and how there is a narrow window for APAC to increase its resilience and protect its hard-won development gains from the socioeconomic impacts of climate change.

One viable solution is to accelerate the adoption of high-quality, triple-benefit nature-based solutions (NbS). These solutions not only mitigate climate risks but also offer co-benefits such as biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihood opportunities.

As such, would you be interested in an interview with climate experts from The Nature Conservancy and/or the Southeast Asia and Nature-based Solutions (SCeNe) Coalition

They would be happy to discuss:

  • The efficacy of NbS in enhancing climate resilience and fostering sustainable development
  • Case studies highlighting successful implementation of NbS projects in APAC
  • Policy recommendations for scaling up NbS adoption and mainstreaming them into national and regional climate strategies

Please let us know if you’d be interested or if you require any additional information. We look forward to your response!

Thank you,

Simone, for TNC & SCeNe Coalition

[Interview Opp] Nature-based solutions are the key for the world’s most climate disaster-impacted region (APAC) – email I received on 24 April 2024

Well, I wasn’t too impressed, even with the phrase “high-quality, triple-benefit nature-based solutions (NbS)”, and responded:


I reckon to most people, this gubbins would come across as just jargon. NbS; well it contains the initials “BS”, accidental honesty?!!

Seems akin to greenwashing, too; fancy terms.

Why haven’t you given some down to earth info, like what these solutions are in practice, some examples? Editors just supposed to guess, or to be so bamboozled by jargon they just sing, “Hallelujah – we’re saved at last!”, before unleasing turgid prose on the masses.

And, really, to what extent can these counter the terrible changes underway? 

It’s one thing to give corporate-greeny viewpoints, and talk of “sponge cities” etc; but realities?

Any places in Beijiang basin boasted of being sponge cities? [Had just flooded as I wrote, for second time in April 2024]

I’ve seen TNC claim Shenzhen is a sponge city; absurd really, it’s a concrete jungle [have you been?!], and the “sponge” fared badly in last September’s floods, will flood again, and again… 

Well, I don’t know to what extent you’re aiming to play along with corporate interests etc etc.

And yeah, tough to get funding, tell it like it is.


– emailed response, 24 April 2024

Well, as yet I haven’t received a reply to this; no surprise perhaps given I was rather a party pooper. Anyhoo, at least I’ve given the email and its content a slight airing here, read by … err … well, almost no one at all.

A false, corporate pathway?

Wondering if anyone else figures NbS may be at least partly, well, BS, I did a spot of googling, adding the term “greenwashing”, and quite a few results appeared.

For instance, the Global Forest Condition doesn’t seem impressed:

While NbS may sound promising to many, closer analysis and rigorous scrutiny of their implementation reveal them as a dangerous barrier to resolving the climate and biodiversity crises.

The driver behind these false solutions comes from an unsettling and powerful corporate lobby machine. The term ‘nature-based solutions’ is increasingly used by global polluters such as oil and gas companies, agro-businesses, high-emission transport sectors and governments of high-emissions nations. These are the very entities responsible for much of the environmental damage we witness today, impacting communities worldwide, particularly women in all their diversities. Some major conservation NGOs also support NbS, claiming it could optimise infrastructure and secure a biodiverse future.

However, the principles guiding NbS do not align with the wisdom, cosmology, traditional knowledge, and sustainable livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, who have been the custodians of the planet’s forests, ecosystems and biodiversity for millennia.

“Nature-based solutions” – another false, corporate pathway in the great greenwashing of the climate and biodiversity crise [sic]

I also found a blog post, including:

The list of corporations and business associations that explicitly support “nature-based solutions” or “natural climate solutions” includes the world’s biggest polluters: BP, Chevron, Equinor, Total, Shell, Eni, Petrobras, BHP, Dow Chemical Company, Bayer, Boeing, Microsoft, Novartis, Procter and Gamble, HSBC, Woodside Energy, International Paper, Olam, Coca-Cola, Danone, Unilever and Mars. None of them have announced that they will end the destruction of nature, nor have they committed to “rapid, deep and sustained reductions” of greenhouse gas emissions.

The “nature-based solutions” trap

An article on Mongabay looks at some pros and cons of NbS, and includes:

“NBS are so all-embracing and nebulous,” Simon Counsell, former executive director of the Rainforest Foundation UK who now works as an independent consultant, told Mongabay. “They can be anything with societal benefits that includes nature,” he added, which describes most development projects.

Particularly problematic for Counsell is the framing of the term and that NBS are “being presented as a third or more of the solution to climate change, while they are actually very insignificant on an international scale.”

Are nature-based solutions the silver bullet for social & environmental crises?

To the World Rainforest Movement:

Nature-Based Solutions (some use the term Natural-Climate-Solutions) are a dangerous distraction from preventing disastrous climate change.

New name for old distraction: Nature-Based Solutions is the new REDD

And here, from an interview with Fridays for Future activist Michael Staniszewski:

Conservation organisations like The Nature Conservancy partner with corporations like Shell, Cargill and Syngenta to develop such “nature-based solutions”.

The finance industry sees “nature-based solutions” as a huge opportunity. It estimates the potential market value to be 3.3 trillion dollars, seeing “enormous new opportunities for both project developers and investors”.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to preserve and restore ecosystems where possible. Healthy ecosystems that function as carbon sinks like peatlands, tidal flats or seagrass beds are essential for a stable climate on this planet. But the way “nature-based” carbon removals work currently could have massive negative effects on ecosystems, food security and people’s rights.


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