Working with nature to address climate change impacts

Communities of Te Moananui Oceania live in diverse contexts but face common challenges. These include a tendency to live in geographical locations that are particularly prone to the impacts of climate change (UNESCAP, 2019); high dependence on land and ocean ecologies for basic needs and economic security (for example, food, shelter, medicines, and fuel); and experience of economic deprivation as well as social and political marginalisation (Bailey-Winiata, 2021), that has often, but not in all nations of the Pacific, been exacerbated by complex histories and on-going realities of colonisation (Mihaere et al., 2024). Efforts to adapt to climate change in Te Moananui Oceania are diverse and are occurring at a rapid pace. NbS is one of multiple strategies to adapt to climate change. NbS could and in some places in Te Moananui Oceania do already play a key role in adaptation efforts, enabling multiple co-benefits to evolve that focus on revitalising ecological health, and (if designed well) improving human wellbeing while focusing on climate change impacts. We have organised NbS into twenty-one categories corresponding to key specific climate change impacts for the region. These tend to be highly interconnected, each working in complex feedback loops of cause and affect.

The urgent need to adapt to climate change is clear and is of great importance in Te Moananui Oceania. Across Te Moananui Oceania increasing extreme weather events, especially cyclones, floods and droughts, are displacing populations, causing death, injury and psychological trauma (Gibson et al., 2020; Tiatia et al., 2022). Indirectly, human health is threatened because of negative climate change impacts on the health of ecosystems that fundamentally underpin human wellbeing, the health of which is considered by many Indigenous peoples of Oceania to be indivisible from human wellbeing (Holman-Wharehoka, 2023). 

Climate change will likely increase existing social and health inequalities, both between and within nations (Woodward and Porter, 2016; Levy et al., 2017), with traditionally marginalised Indigenous populations likely to be impacted disproportionally (United Nations, 2016), including many communities across Te Moananui Oceania. This is concerning because the response to climate change thus far has generally adhered to Western hegemonic understandings of health and ecological systems (Jones et al., 2014). Indigenous-focused and led approaches are therefore needed, including those centring wellbeing and working with nature to effectively adapt to climate change (Mihaere et al., 2024; Kiddle et al., 2021a).

Our intention is to make matching specific NbS to climate change impacts easier while acknowledging that multi-scalar NbS interventions are often made up of several different NbS strategies. It is important to design for multiple climate change impacts and wellbeing for humans and broader living ecologies while designing NbS projects. Although all design that works with nature is inherently site-specific (climatically, ecologically, and culturally), many NbS strategies address multiple climate change impacts at the same time, so various NbS occur in several different categories here. The loss of biodiversity and biomass land cover is one of the key impacts of climate change. Because the very nature of NbS is to improve ecological health, and with it biodiversity, and because the vast majority of NbS work with vegetation, we can assume that all NbS contribute to addressing the climate change impact of biodiversity and biomass loss. We have therefore left this out as a separate category, but have included the more specific issues of changes in phenology and increased pests and weeds. Similarly, a key climate change impact is negative outcomes for human health and wellbeing. Because all NbS must lead to both increased ecological health and increased human wellbeing, we can assume that all NbS are ways to increase human wellbeing. Because of this, we have left this category out, though we have left in increased incidence/distribution of disease as a specific category. 

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Click on a climate change impact to see which nature-based solutions might be useful in an Oceania context. Each NbS has an associated case study. You can search by Issues with land and people; Issues with water; Issues with biodiversity and ecosystems.