United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Ecosystem-based Adaptation


    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.


    The objective of UNEP’s EbA projects is to protect the most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change, while simultaneously restoring and preserving the world’s ecosystems. Crucially, the projects integrate adaptation priorities into national development planning, including National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). UNEP’s mandate to work on EbA derives from UNEA 1/8 Resolution. Nature-based solutions, including EbA, represent a transformation to a new paradigm of sustainability approaches. EbA is a highly cost-effective means of achieving the 2030 Agenda due to ‘co-benefits’, which refers to the way in which the approach has multiple rewards beyond the adaptation goal. Often through win-win outcomes, EbA builds resilience in tandem with providing many benefits so crucial for human well-being, such as clean water and food.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    SDG 13: • Strengthen communities’ resilience to climate hazards (13.1). • Contribute to mobilising $100 billion annually for climate finance (13.A). • Build capacity to integrate climate change measures into national policies (13.2 & 13.B). • Awareness-raising and training workshops to understand climate risk (13.3). Other SDGs: • Restore 113,000 ha – SDG15 • Benefit livelihoods of 2.5m people – SDG1 • Bring 6,600 ha of land under ‘climate smart’ agriculture – SDG2 • Train 60,000 people and 131 institutions to understand climate risk – SDG13 • Build 1,124 water harvesting structures – SDG6

    Implementation methodologies

    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.

    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

    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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    UN Environment Programme
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    More information
    Contact Information

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