United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Ecosystem-based Adaptation

UN Environment Programme (
Intergovernmental organization

    UNEP is directly helping 40+ governments around the world to use Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) to protect their country from climate change. EbA is known as the use of nature-based solutions for climate adaptation. For instance, in Tanzania, UNEP supported the government to reforest coastal mangroves to fight against coastal flooding. In Sudan, UNEP is helping to protect communities and their water sources from desertification by restoring degraded ecosystems. These projects combined are aiming to benefit around 2.5 million people globally while restoring 113,000 hectares of land. The portfolio is funded by the Global Environment Fund, the Green Climate Fund, and the Adaptation Fund.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The UNEP model builds capacities of governments to execute projects, providing intensive mentoring and coaching to prepare workplans and financial reports. EbA project activities include: 1. Conduct climate vulnerability studies to identify the communities, regions, and sectors most at risk from climate impacts, and the adaptation options and priorities 2. Conduct feasibility studies and consultations to design EbA interventions and select pilot sites, while considering effectiveness, beneficiaries’ preferences, and risks of ‘maladaptation’ 3. Build capacity of communities and government officials to plan, implement and monitor EbA action, and raise their awareness of the benefits of EbA through workshops and communication tools 4. Restore ecosystems. Examples include: creating ‘shelter belts’ – a line of trees or shrubs – around crops to protect them from erosion, or restoring mangroves to provide natural sea defences 5. Teach communities that directly depend on natural resources to avoid degrading local ecosystems by training them to adopt additional livelihoods that are sustainable and climate-resilient. Examples can include beekeeping and ecotourism 6. Monitor and evaluate project interventions, including the planting success (i.e., seedling survival rates, soil quality, etc). Projects are monitored against quantitative and qualitative indicators, and targets are set at the project inception stage 7. Adaptive management is crucial in UNEP’s adaptation work. The projects ensure there is room to re-align activities and outputs, to adjust indicators, and to identify and implement corrective measures 8. Collect lessons learned and package them into communication products that are circulated with stakeholders to develop further knowledge and action to upscale EbA


    We can see the life-changing results from UNEP’s EbA Portoflio through qualitative interviews: • Tanzania: “'Before, we would catch about 20 crabs, but now we get 50 or 60. I feel so proud when I see how much the people here and our environment have benefited from our planting.” - Ms Moussa, local resident • Comoros: “Through this project, we are learning a lot about erosion, because the rain was coming and taking it all the way to the sea. Now we know we can plant things to stop the soil going, and we can tell others about how trees protect and nourish the soil.” - Mr Soumaila, farmer • Cambodia: “I’ve seen how when this nursery produces seedlings and restores forest cover, we get more rain and a better rice harvest,” - Mr Ron, Head of Chuop Tasok’s community protected area. • Madagascar: “Now I produce 250 kg [of honey] every three months. With the extra income I can save, pay my debts, prepare the fields, and support my family.” – Mr Rabenandrasana, beneficiary of beekeeping training.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    • Using new technology for modelling ecosystem goods builds the economic case of EbA (e.g., high resolution data from drones), and makes this info more available to stakeholders. • Finance must be set aside for awareness raising so stakeholders understand EbA benefits. Contingency budgets for unforeseen setbacks should be allocated. • Adaptive management is crucial. Projects must be flexible to adjust activities and employ corrective measures. • Partnerships with research institutes. In Tanzania and Albania especially, field research by students enabled project success. Participative management leads to ownership of the project by stakeholders.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Sustainability and replicability is achieved by: • Policy mainstreaming – integrating EbA into govt policy is often a key project target, and is more sustained when budgets are assigned to it • Research – establishing research programmes long after the project closes and bringing EbA into national education curricula • Training – training govt staff to plan, implement, and monitor EbA actions. A Training of Trainers approach ensures replicability • Global initiatives - Linking projects and lessons to global movements, e.g. UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration - a major contribution to Agenda 2030 by upscaling restoration to achieve global goals • Communication & KM – collecting project lessons and packaging them into communication products to bring lessons forward. UNEP’s Global Adaptation Network, a knowledge sharing platform, disseminates lessons at global levels • Country ownership – ownership by stakeholders and govt, instilled through participation and linking to national initiatives

    Other sources of information

    1. UNEP’s Ecosystem-based Adaptation landing page – https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/climate-change/what-we-do/climate-a… 2. Video: What is Ecosystem-based Adaptation? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhDuqvRk6LY 3. Stories: - Forests and passion: a hero’s guide to resisting climate change - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/forests-and-passion-heros-g… - Albania: How a lagoon became a frontline defence against climate change - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/albania-how-lagoon-became-f… - “Sponge City”: San Salvador uses nature to fight floods - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/sponge-city-san-salvador-us… - ‘Seawater is coming into our farms and killing the plants’ - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/seawater-coming-our-farms-a… - Bend, but never break: weaving a climate-proof future - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/bend-never-break-weaving-cl… - Helping Gambian youth find greener pastures at home - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/helping-gambian-youth-find-… - “I’m proud to have brought the rain back”: reforestation revives Cambodian mountains - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/im-proud-have-brought-rain-… - South-South Cooperation to tackle climate change - https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/south-south-cooperation-tac… 4. Ecosystem-based Adaptation Briefing Note Series - https://www.unep.org/gan/news/press-release/unep-wcmc-release-briefing-…

    COVID-19 Impact

    Covid-19 has posed a challenge for some projects, whether it’s by limiting transport and field missions, logistical delays, or social distancing measures that interfere with training workshops and M&E processes. However, EbA projects have a great potential for assisting with the build back better agenda by: • Easing the dependence on food supply chains damaged by Covid through, for example, planting mangroves to increase fish stocks in Tanzania and establishing solar-powered ‘home-gardens’ in Cambodia • Increasing water supplies, essential for sanitation and Covid-19 protection, by restoring 13,400 hectares of ecosystems in the Gambia and installing rainwater harvesting devices in Mexico • Developing ecotourism businesses, a particularly hard hit industry of Covid-19, in Djibouti

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    Other beneficiaries

    UNEP’s EbA projects aim to benefit 2.5 million people. UNEP directly supports govt ministries in over 40 countries. The Global Adaptation Network (GAN), a UNEP knowledge platform, plays a role in capturing EbA lessons from these countries and sharing them with a global community, including over 220 govt staff and 80 govt ministries. As a network, GAN builds partnerships all over the world, mapping out and connecting EbA stakeholders.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Marcus, UNEP: Protecting People & Planet With Ecosystem-based Adaptation