Promoting Natural Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation

Sarshen Marais is currently attending the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa. Read other COP 17 posts.

Dried bed of the Orange River, Richtersveld Northern Cape, South Africa. Climate change is already reducing rainfall in arid regions around the world. (© CI / Photo by Tessa Mildenhall)

Here at COP 17 in Durban, climate change adaptation is a big topic of discussion. I’m particularly excited to see that ecosystem-based adaptation — which uses healthy ecosystems that provide services like fresh water, food and shelter to help people cope with climate change impacts — is gaining lots of attention.

One forum in which it is being discussed is within the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP), which aims to help countries — particularly developing ones — understand and assess vulnerability to and impacts of climate change, and to help countries make informed decisions on practical adaptation actions.

Earlier this week, I represented CI at a Nairobi Work Programme workshop at COP 17. Several of Conservation International’s field programs and affiliates — including Brazil, the Philippines and South Africa — have written and submitted case studies and commitments to their adaptation work to share their knowledge and plans with the NWP. These “action pledges” are aimed at enhancing understanding on ecosystem-based approaches on the ground. Here in South Africa, our efforts focus on working with small-scale farmers in the Northern Cape and assisting with sustainable grazing and water management practices to enhance their resilience to climate change in an arid region where overgrazing and water scarcity are already threats to livelihoods.

We are also working to incorporate the lessons learned from these ecosystem approaches into local and national policy, with a focus on the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits of integrating ecosystem services into our strategy to adapt to climate impacts. The project is being done in conjunction with projects based in Brazil and the Philippines in order to compare results, share lessons learned, and explore the cost-effectiveness of ecosystem based approaches to adaptation. This work is supported by the German International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Next week here at COP 17, the World Bank and South Africa’s Department of Environment will be presenting a new report I have just written with co-authors from the South Africa National Biodiversity Institute and the NGO Indigo Development and Change. This report looks at ecosystem-based approaches in Africa and provides recommendations for how to advance this body of work, scale it up and ensure that sustainable finance flows towards these types of actions in the future. (Visit CI’s “Room for Progress” below to hear Sarshen talk about the progress on ecosystem-based adaptation so far in Durban.)

We hope that these discussions will help us show how healthy ecosystems provide natural solutions to addressing climate impacts and helping vulnerable communities and nature adapt — and raise the profile of this important issue in these critical international negotiations.

Sarshen Marais is the director for policy and markets at Conservation South Africa. To learn more about our adaptation work in South Africa, Brazil and the Philippines, download this project description (PDF – 420 KB).


  1. Brian R Smith says

    I am delighted you are doing Dispatches from Durban. But please note that the sound on the videos is terrifically bad and severely detracts from the purpose. please arrange for the background noise to be isolated from the speaker… lapel mic?


  2. Pingback: Durban Dispatch: December 2, 2011 | Greediocracy

  3. Pingback: Durban dispatch: Climate deniers rip Tutu | Grist

  4. Pingback: Durban Dispatch: December 2, 2011 | My Blog

  5. Pingback: Durban dispatch: Climate deniers rip Tutu | Greediocracy

  6. Pingback: » ‘Storm of the Century’ May Become ‘Storm of the Decade’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *