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Recap learning session – Nature Based Solutions for Climate Justice: concerns, roles and responsibilities

In this learning session, Partos and WWF co-facilitated a learning session on Nature-Based Solutions. During this in-person event, we explored how Nature-Based Solutions can serve Climate Justice, potential concerns, and our roles and responsibilities as professionals. Read on to catch the key insights into this dynamic topic and steps forward!

29 April 2024


Across the world, political interest and commitment to implement Nature-Based Solutions continues to grow. The Netherlands has been part of a number of international initiatives that promote NbS, making it a priority area for Dutch policymakers both in the country and within broader European sustainability frameworks. The momentum to come together towards implementing NbS in a way that fully aligns with climate justice principles is here.  

As we know, the term arrived as an effort to recentre social concerns in the work of conservation, and in line with the environmental and climate justice debates. In addition, NbS as a term offers the opportunity to place conservation efforts under the attention of non-conservation actors, namely through funding from e.g., private financial institutions, corporate sector, insurance companies, etc. The concept does not come without its criticism: risks include being used as a greenwashing strategy for carbon offsets from the Global North, enhancing colonialist dynamics, not taking indigenous knowledge or rights into account, or focusing too much on tree planting without scientific expertise and long-term thinking.   

As these critiques must remain at the center of any reflections, design, implementation and monitoring process within NbS initiatives. In this session, co-created by Partos and WWF NL, we came together to ask ourselves: how seriously have we all taken these into consideration in our environmental and development work and how far have we gone beyond them? How are we ensuring, either through our partnerships, cross-learnings, implementation or advocacy efforts, that NbS can be successful in its promises?  

Panel discussion

We had open and constructive dialogues with around 30 participants and a diverse panel of 5 practitioners with experience and expertise on nature based solution. The panel consisted of:  

  • Melvin van der Veen, Senior policy officer Inclusive Water Governance for Climate Adaptation, Both ENDS  
  • Evelien van den Broek, Senior Expert Environmental Justice, IUCN  
  • Barbara Nakangu, Global Programme Manager – Voices for Just CLimate Action, WWF-NL  
  • Annabel Kennedy, Project Coordinator, WECF International  
  • Rosalien Jezeer, Programme Coordinator Tropenbos International  

Insights from this session

A lot was said during the session. At many points organisations overlap in there perspectives and approaches, but some differences remain as well. Below we share the main insights identified regarding nature based solutions: 

  • The local context is leading: several panellists emphasized the importance of adapting NbS to the local context and respect the unique environmental, social, and cultural characteristics, also when scaling up and out initiatives. Through local NbS we can address  
  • Inclusion, local ownership and decision making: Engaging with communities ensures that their needs, priorities, and knowledge are taken into account, increasing the likelihood of long-term success and sustainability. NbS are often supporting already existing local initiatives. It can only work if it helps solving a local problem. 
  • There are tensions with private sector and market working: NbS are at risk of being considered a ‘new and shiny investment opportunity’ and being used for greenwashing and being co-opted by private actors and with that used to maintain the unsustainable, unjust, status-quo 
  • Be critical but constructive: Even though NbS has pitfalls and risks, is it important to (as a sector) state clearly what we do want (and not only critise).   
  • At the same time: tackle the root causes of injustice: ‘if the basement is flooding it is important to turn  off the tap, while not forgetting to save those that are drowing and in urgent need of help’.  
  • Economic viability: important for success. However, this does not only relate to investment by external actors, but (mainly) to local economic sustainability for communities.  
  • Negotiated approach (highlighted by Both Ends): envisages the meaningful and long-term participation of communities in all aspects of managing the water and other natural resources on which their lives depend. Read more. 
  • Bottom-up or top-down: this is complementary and also top-down approaches can be inclusive. At the same time, bottom-up approaches are not necessarily inclusive. 

 Our roles and responsibilities

As identified through input given by participants:

  • Facilitating local partnership
  • Networking, connecting with different specialities for intersectoral solutions
  • Strong focus on shifting/sharing the power as ngo based in NL
  • Monitoring projects for long-term knowledge-based
  • Integrate the sense that system change is about restoring relation between humans and nature in all stages of work (and life)


As identified through input given by participants:

  • Too much focus on ‘scale’ and risks of reification of the concept
  • Not building on local knowledge and priorities
  • Lack of conflict sensitivity and comprehensive analysis at the design phase; Failure to involve rightsholders in designing NbS
  • Corporate capture and failure to address critical reflections on avoiding ‘green colonialism’s

Are you curious for more? 

Dive into the PowerPoints below:

Check-out the PPT of Evelien van den Broek

Check-out the PPT of Rosalien Jezeer

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