The House of Lords has published a report examining the role of nature-based solutions (NBS) to support the UK’s net zero carbon targets. The report, Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality? The potential contribution of nature-based solutions to net zero in the UK, discusses in detail the current state of, and potential for use of NBS, in different land types across the UK, including forests, agriculture, marine, etc. It analyses the ability of current government policy to meet targets for emissions and nature restoration and finds them severely lacking.

The government plans are ambitious and have much potential, but there is a clear danger they will not be achieved.

Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality? House of Lords report, 2022

It will come as little surprise that the main finding of the report is that current levels of clarity, funding and support from the government is the principal obstacle for the UK’s potential to implement and effectively use NBS to sequester carbon, support biodiversity, and so on. The report concluded that due to these, and other, factors, government plans to implement NBS to help reach net zero and biodiversity targets are at a serious risk of failure. The government has, in general, missed its targets for restoring and protecting nature. Pledges are undermined by a lack of clarity on terms such as “effectively protect” and this needs addressing.

Key areas of concern:

The main recommendation from this report is that the government needs to invest in further research, skills training and the delivery of NBS. However, the report also points out that this cannot be done at the expense of implementing NBS now – we do not have the time to wait until people are trained.

To hit the 2030 targets on biodiversity, we cannot wait until 2028 to have people doing that work.

Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality? House of Lords report, 2022

It is important that a lack of evidence does not lead to a lack of action. Where evidence gaps exist, the report recommends that policy should adopt a precautionary approach weighted in favour of nature.

For NBS to work, they need to be carefully designed, ecologically sensitive, and planned based on specific locations and future climate conditions. They should be designed and implemented in partnership with local communities and stakeholders. They are not a substitute for decarbonisation of the economy, and net zero will not be reached using NBS alone.

Specific points of interest:

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