Research & Innovation

Nature-based Solutions and Indigenous-led conservation economies

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are actions that protect, manage, and restore ecosystems, while addressing societal challenges (like climate change, or food security), so there is a simultaneous benefit to nature and people. In Canada’s efforts to combat climate change, Nature-based Solutions are promising, as they could help achieve up to 35% of Canada’s 2030 carbon reduction commitment. However, their performance and long-term impacts are still poorly understood.

If you are conducting Nature-based Solutions in Canada we want to hear from you! Contact us at: santiago.ramirezsaid@futureearth.org.

To the best of our knowledge, in Canada there is currently no detailed framework, protocol, or map guiding the implementation of Nature-based Solutions (NbS). There is also no platform integrating carbon, biodiversity, and social information (including an analysis of data availability, data ownership, dataset interoperability, ecosystem coverage, community-led initiatives, social indicators, and more). There is excellent potential for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) methods to help integrate the vast datasets necessary to monitor and scale up NbS initiatives. Furthermore, as integration of these various knowledge systems occurs, an equitable and co-creative process for NbS that centralizes Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) is key to achieving Canada’s climate and biodiversity targets. 

Sustainability in the Digital Age is working on designing NbS equitably for Canada and beyond, exploring the opportunities and challenges of using AI and other digital technologies while engaging Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. 

We began with convenings that engaged over 100 participants from South, North, and Central America, Europe, and Africa, representing the private sector, science and research communities, industry, Indigenous communities, and nonprofits. We  explored the following themes and the following illustrations were produced from these discussions:

1. Exploring the connection between Indigenous worldviews and technology, including digital technologies:

Illustration of ideas from workshops on Nature-based Solutions, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and machine learning applications to climate mitigation and adaptation.

2. Enabling equitable NbS for climate change mitigation and ecosystem resilience to climate change:

Illustration of ideas from workshops on enabling equitable Nature-based Solutions for climate change mitigation and ecosystem resilience to climate change.

3. Leveraging digital technology for innovating, strengthening, and upscaling NbS:

Illustration of ideas from workshops on leveraging digital technology for innovating, strengthening, and upscaling Nature-based Solutions.

Read more in our report (below) titled “A Landscape Analysis of Nature-based Solutions in Canada.” This report synthesizes the findings of our literature review and consultations. We present an assessment of publicly available data from current NbS projects in Canada to outline opportunities for improved reporting, funding, and geographic distribution of NbS.  Additionally, you will find a brief overview of Nature-based Solutions, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and machine learning applications to climate mitigation and adaptation, for implementing sustainable, equitable, systemic solutions.

A second report is in the final stages of being produced and will be publicly available soon. This report is the product of over six months of work led by the Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership. With their guidance and the participation of various Indigenous leaders, experts, and NGOs, we focused this second report on Rooting Natural Climate Solutions in Indigenous Rights and Responsibility and Catalyzing Indigenous-led Conservation Economies. In this soon-to-be-released report, we explore the current barriers for Indigenous-led NbS, the political frameworks behind it and some case studies to build upon. With this work, we aim to provide an improved understanding of Nature-based Solutions to help decision-makers prioritize actions that support carbon storage, biodiversity, resilience, and reconciliation goals.

Key Insights

Graphic illustration on Monitoring and transparency: A fragmented landscape. It is not currently possible to evaluate the efficacy of NbS efforts in Canada due to a lack of standardized transparency and monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) frameworks.
Graphic illustration of Monitoring and transparency: Opportunities. Creation of a national framework for MRV. NbS Repository.
Graphic illustration of Geographic distribution. The current regional distribution of NbS in Canada does not adequately balance environmental needs, human well-being, and opportunities for impact.
Graphic illustration of Geographic distribution:
Opportunities. Increase coverage of peatland NbS to maintain irrecoverable carbon sinks. Expand regional distribution
 to address climate vulnerability.
Graphic illustration of Ecosystem type. Funding schemes prioritize projects focusing on forest and aquatic ecosystems. Key NbS with high carbon mitigation potential, 
like grasslands, oceans, and, agriculture, have less representation under current funding schemes.
Graphic illustration of Ecosystem type:
Opportunities. Support more agricultural NbS and the programs to maintain them. Explore blue carbon and grassland NbS.
Graphic illustration of Financial trend: Funding length, amount, and access are highly variable among projects. And Opportunity: Create inclusive funding schemes based on data.
Graphic illustration of Potential opportunities To close current gaps in the NbS financing space in Canada. Standardize & centralize NbS monitoring. Explore big-data driven approaches. Agriculture. Peatlands.

For more information, watch the panel discussion on “Landscape Analysis of Nature-based Solutions in Canada” from the 13th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC):

Source: 13th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), 25 November 2021. Panel on Landscape Analysis.

Expert Advisory Committee

David Rolnick
Scientific Co-Director, Sustainability in the Digital Age. Canada CIFAR AI Chair, McGill University. Core Academic Member, Mila – Quebec AI Research Institute. Co-founder and Chair of the Climate Change AI initiative

Damon Matthews
Scientific Co-Director, Sustainability in the Digital Age. Tier 1 Research Chair in Climate Science and Sustainability, Concordia University

François Soulard
Chief of the Research and Development section in Environmental Accounts and Statistics Program, Statistics Canada

Andrew Gonzales
Co-Chair, GEO BON. Professor of Biology, McGill University. Founding director, Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science

Elena Bennett
Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Science, McGill University. Co-chair,
ecoSERVICES project

Angela Kross
Full-time faculty in Geospatial Technologies, Concordia University

Mehrdad Hariri
Founder and CEO, Canadian Science Policy Centre

With support from

FRQ logo
NSERC logo
We acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Ducks Unlimited Canada logo
Mitacs logo
Microsoft logo

Partners

Sustainability in the Digital Age logo
Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership logo
Ducks Unlimited Canada logo
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