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Coherence and Alignment among Sustainable Land Management, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Nature-based Solutions, Report No. 28, December 2021

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Executive Summary

Approaches integrating environmental management practices have been gaining importance in recent years. They address current global challenges such as food insecurity, water scarcity, decline in biodiversity and threats to livelihoods, while also considering both human well-being and ecosystem functions and services. More specifically, Sustainable Land Management (SLM), Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are widely-applied approaches that tackle certain drivers of these challenges in a goal-orient - ed way, in particular land degradation, climate change impacts and disasters due to natural hazards. A better understanding of similarities, differences and relationships between these approaches helps to improve efficiency and leverage synergies. By shedding more light on where these approaches align, investments in land-based solutions in response to different types of environmental challenges can be more effectively designed to achieve multiple co-benefits.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Decision 19/COP.14 paragraph 4 seeks to encourage coherence and alignment in the way these approaches are categorized. Based on this, the UNCCD secretariat contracted UNU-EHS to conduct an assessment of these approaches and provide information on their specificities, similarities and differences in reference to how each is used in the context of implementing the Rio Conventions and other international agreements, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The main objective of this report is to understand and elaborate upon the characteristics of SLM, EbA, Eco-DRR and NbS. The report begins with an overview of the historical backgrounds and origins of SLM, EbA, Eco-DRR and NbS.
Embedded in the text of the UNCCD drafted in 1994, SLM is the oldest of the four approaches, and all actions, measures and co-benefits under SLM aim to combat Desertification/ Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD). The other approaches were developed and formally defined more recently. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) officially defined EbA in 2009 with Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) as a specific goal. The CBD furthermore encouraged the implementation of Eco-DRR with the specific goal to reduce disaster risk in 2014. NbS, being the youngest of the four terms, is considered a broad concept to address various environmental and societal challenges by capitalizing on nature, and has been defined both by the European Commission (EC) in 2015 and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2016. While the concept of NbS addresses a broad variety of challenges, drivers and goals, the approaches of SLM, EbA and Eco-DRR address very specific goals. Therefore, the comparative analysis of this report focuses exclusively on these approaches.

The analysis shows that the specific goals of each approach, such as CCA, combating land degradation or Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), determine the type of baseline assessment needed, and form the reference for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the individual approaches. Despite differences in their specific goals and targeted benefits, all approaches aim for the support of biodiversity, land-based ecosystems and ecosystem services and functions, and employ measures to conserve, restore and sustainably use land to support ecosystem services and functions, including SLM technologies.

There are similarities in a number of implementation characteristics, such as being people-centered, transdisciplinary, focused on equity and inclusivity, as well as the fact that all approaches call for the integration of traditional and indig - enous environmental knowledge and practices. Furthermore, irrespective of their different goals, the projects developed under any approach can generate comparable co-benefits, especially due to their support of biodiversity. The capacity for all these approaches to deliver multiple co-benefits means that projects of each approach can directly contribute to imple - menting the specific goals of the other approaches as well. Multiple global and national targets, frameworks, strategies and conventions call for the implementation of one or more of these approaches. And thus, the clear coherence among them means projects pursued under each approach can readily contribute to the achievement of multiple goals and targets (and the national reporting requested of countries to help the world track progress).

This is critical for achieving the ambitious Agenda 2030, including voluntary Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets and climate action under the Paris Agreement. It will also be the case for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework currently under development. The added value that will come from optimizing the links among these approaches extends from national policymakers to the practitioners of SLM, EbA and Eco-DRR projects, which all share the ultimate goal of sustainable development.

To capture the coherence and alignment among these approaches, their similarities and differences have been summarized in a conceptual framework with underlying tables that provide more nuanced detail. The framework has been designed to help practitioners understand the specific goals of each approach, and to link these to the relevant global and national targets, frameworks, strategies and conventions, which can support M&E as well as reporting processes.

The coherence among these approaches is further illustrated through three case studies in order to demonstrate opportuni - ties for leveraging multiple co-benefits and targets at imple - mentation level irrespective of the different objectives under each.

The results of this assessment demonstrate that activities under one approach can be beneficial to achieve the specific goals of other approaches with little additional effort other than ensuring that the outcomes are reported against all relevant national and global targets. It is essential for policymakers, project developers and practitioners to recognize that with small adjustments in project design and greater attention to the full range of global co-benefits attainable, the synergies among the Rio Conventions, the SFDRR, the Ramsar Conven - tion and the 2030 Agenda can be more readily realized. This is key to the achievement of sustainable development. The explicit integration of multiple approaches into the develop - ment of national plans and strategies in order to respond to the multiple goals and targets of international agreements could avoid duplication and reduce the overall investments necessary to achieve the set targets and goals.