How Can We Build Back Better: Helpful Insights for Climate-smart Inclusive Economic Development from the United Nations’ Recent Assembly

Last month, on February 22, 2021, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) convened representatives of its 193 Member States and other stakeholders to discuss how to build back better as we begin the return to a post-pandemic world.

In preparation for UNEA-5, the United Nations Environment Programme’s North America Office (UNEP North America) led a series of workshops to explore ways in which nature is already being used to address climate change and other issues. Over 400 North American stakeholders including governments, the public and private sectors, NGOs, and youth came together to share best practices, success stories and challenges with implementing and scaling nature-based solutions. Some important takeaways emerged that we should keep in mind as we aim to foster a climate-smart and inclusive economy:

  1. “Both top-down and bottom-up approaches must work in tandem to achieve effective, long-term solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises.”
  2. “Co-designing nature-based solutions with stakeholders at the local level, particularly with indigenous communities, is key.”
  3. “Cross-sector collaboration is required to implement and sustain nature-based solutions.”
  4. “Empowering youth and communities through education can inspire the sustainable lifestyle transition and behavior change needed to achieve the SDGs.”
  5. “Innovation, data, and technology have an unprecedented role to play in designing and demonstrating the benefits of nature-based solutions.”
  6. “The standardization of language and metrics around nature-based solutions is needed to define collective rules and impact.”
  7. “Stakeholders must invest in nature, financing and derisking nature-based solutions.”
  8. “Private sector entities should rise to the challenge of integrating sustainability into core business values.”

These best practices for implementing nature-based solutions were echoed during the UNEA-5 conference. UNEA emphasized the importance of taking action now in their final statement:

“Human health and wellbeing are dependent upon nature and the solutions it provides, and we are aware that we shall face recurring risks of future pandemics if we maintain our current unsustainable patterns in our interactions with nature.”

To read more about the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, click here. To learn more about each of the workshops held by UNEP North America prior to the conference, click here.

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