A systemic approach to innovation in land use and nature-based solutions

Daniel Zimmer, Director of Sustainable Land Use at EIT Climate-KIC, shares his view below on how systemic thinking should be centred within innovation on land use and nature-based solutions. 

Systems innovation is an integrated and coordinated intervention in economic, political and social systems through a portfolio of connected innovation experiments. In a way, it reproduces the way each part of a natural ecosystem works in perfect coordination with each other, even through perpetual change. So where better to test this concept than in innovation related to land use and nature-based solutions?

As stressed in the session organised by EIT Climate-KIC at COP24 in Katowice, land use and nature-based solutions represent a large part of the answer to climate change. Land use solutions also feature heavily in most Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the post-2020 climate actions at the heart of the Paris Agreement that each signatory country is required to prepare and communicate. Yet, these solutions have remained, until now, under-represented in the mainstream debate on climate change. The number of concrete actions in land use and nature-based solutions, that are currently implemented and visible to the public eye, are still too small. 

But 2018 has seen a significant development: Land use and nature-based solutions are becoming increasingly high-profile and their role in addressing climate change started to be recognised more broadly, with articles on the topic published in major media outlets such as Le Monde and the New York Times

To live up to these new expectations, EIT Climate-KIC has decided to develop a more coherent portfolio of solutions.  We are convinced that bringing together technological innovation, new business models, and behavioural and regulatory changes, has the potential to induce the transformation of rural landscapes at scale. Only a portfolio of deliberate and connected innovation experiments can generate the wide-ranging transformations which are required to tap our forest’s and soil potential for mitigation, adaptation and carbon sequestration. 

To reforest degraded landscapes and increase trees and soil’s natural capacity to store carbon, one has to work with the organisations and NGOs willing to protect remarkable landscapes threatened by deforestation in Europe and beyond. But a systemic approach goes beyond this, it involves whole value chains which often contribute to the economic development of smallholder farmers and foresters, and it facilitates the selection and implementation of sustainable and climate-smart agricultural practices.

This level of action requires profound and disruptive transformation in economies and societies. It can only work through innovation at the systems level – or systems innovation for short. EIT Climate-KIC currently manages a portfolio of 41 programmes, or projects, in sustainable land use. These programmes combine in a system where integrated landscapes connect value chains to the external world. For our partners from the private sector, this means that protecting landscapes is a way to secure the sustainability of their supply chain. Through EIT Climate-KIC and its partners’ combined efforts, small farmers at the foundation of value-chains of land-based commodities can increase their resilience, notably through financial engineering.   

Such financial tools have the potential to de-risk climate related hazards for the benefit of farmers in Europe, Africa and Latin America. Coupled with automation of monitoring and predictions of climate impact, providing data for index-based microinsurance, this becomes a fantastic tool where all sides can win. If one adds to this mix the promotion of sustainable, yet innovation-based farming practices that will help trap carbon in our forests and crops, you will manage to create real, scalable solutions to tackle climate change.

Such a portfolio approach has now entered its testing phase, and it starts with a new selection process that complements the assessment by external experts of the submitted projects, which will receive EIT funding in 2019.

Beyond this initial step, our intention is to develop with our partners a common view of the systems we wish to transform. This will also be used to assess the relevance and potential of all activities . This portfolio approach will progressively become an open and transparent process that will strengthen our community.

Daniel Zimmer is Director Sustainable Land Use at EIT Climate-KIC.

 
Location
Related Focus Area
Sustainable Land Use
Related Goal
Goal 6: Nurture forests in integrated landscapes
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