Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems can play a critical role in climate adaptation planning, according to experts from United Nations University (UNU) and the World Food Programme.

Coastal ecosystem

Speaking at a COP26 side event, UNU senior scientist Jack O’Connor said nature-based solutions can help reduce disaster risk, biodiversity loss and food insecurity in an integrated way.  

An example is Bangladesh, where O’Connor said numerous projects were underway to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, primarily mangrove forests.  

As well as strengthening coastal protection and cyclones and rising sea levels, these forests also store atmospheric carbon and contribute to local livelihoods through providing a home to fish, crabs and clams.  

UNU said nature-based solutions can also be integrated with safety nets such as climate risk insurance, combining landscape restoration with access to insurance and other financial services.  

Gernot Laganda, chief of climate and disaster risk reduction programmes at WFP, said: “Nature itself is often the best way to protect both people and the planet.  

“Rehabilitating ecosystems helps to reduce people’s vulnerability to climate shocks and stresses while also protecting biodiversity and promoting social cohesion.” 

Last week saw Axa XL launch its Coastal Risk Index, a tool it is hoped will help build the case for nature-based solutions as a tool for societal resilience. 

Chip Cunliffe, biodiversity director at Axa XL, said mangrove and coral reef ecosystems are key to supporting risk mitigation and adaptation efforts against the impacts of climate change.