EVENT REPORT | BACK TO THE NATURE: Exploring the potential of nature-based solutions to face the effects of climate change on water
On 09 November 2021, Aqua Publica Europea organised the public event "Back to the Nature: Exploring the potential of nature-based solutions to face the effects of climate change on water” to discuss the consequences of climate change on the water cycle, as well as the role that nature-based solutions can play in addressing some of the challenges ahead.
Organised in parallel of the COP26 taking place in Glasgow, UK, Aqua Publica Europea’s Conference ‘BACK TO THE NATURE’ taking place at Brussels’ historic Maison de la Poste and broadcasted online, gathering close to 200 participants to discuss the impact of climate change on water resources and water management, the needed actions at the international, national and local level to address it and the potential of nature-based solutions from the scientific, environmental, economic, social and operational perspectives.
After the opening note by the President of Aqua Publica Europea, Mr Bernard Van Nuffel, reminding the audience of the critical time and need to address climate change, the conference drew ideas and experiences from wide-ranging fields. As we can no longer continue with business as usual, the experts agreed that integrating nature more in policy and practice is a credible long-term approach for water management with many co-benefits.
In his welcome address, the First Alderman of the City of Brussels, Mr Benoit Hellings underlined the importance of action at the municipal level. This opening was followed by the keynote speech by Mr Hervé Douville, Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 8 of the Sixth IPCC Report (Water cycle changes) who shared insights about the impact of climate change on water cycles.
In the first session dedicated to "Water and Climate" participants discussed climate action priorities at different levels (EU, national, local) and how to address the foreseen impact on water and water management.
- Mr Willem Jan Goossen reviewed the key elements of the European Commission’s work on climate adaptation strategy.
- At the national level, Mr Jon Rathjen, from the Scottish Government, presented Scotland's and Scottish Water’s strategy not only to respond to international commitments but to maximise climate impact as much as and wherever possible.
- Ms Emilie Lavender from Brussels’s Environment Authority explained the role of regional authorities in the climate transition and shared how water policy in the Brussels region can help tackle climate change.
- Finally, to close the round of presentation, Mr Jan Verheeke, presented exploratory recommendations outlined by the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils Network for national adaptation strategies based on EU policies.
Moving from policy and governance, the second session on "Greening solutions: potential and enabling conditions" was dedicated to concrete actions.
The panel was opened by Mr Ybele Hoogeveen, from the European Environment Agency, who provided insights about key aspects related to water management and the multiple benefits of nature-based solutions, as an umbrella concept. From an NGO perspective, Ms Eva Hernandez, from WWF Europe, shared WWF’s views on the potential of NBS for the management of water resources and implications for policy-making. To provide an economic perspective to the discussion, Ms Sien Kok from research institute Deltares, introduced the economic assessment of Nature-Based solutions. From a financing perspective, Mr Marco Beroš presented the European Investment Bank as a Climate Bank and shared the EIB's experience in financing nature-based solutions for climate adaptation in the water sector.
After drawing an overview from different angles on the potential of Nature-Based solutions, their economic viability and some existing financing instruments to support them, the closing session was dedicated to exploring some concrete cases studies on green solutions for water management from public water operators BCASA (Barcelona, Spain), passing by Gruppo Cap (Milan, Italy) to SMAT (Turin, Italy), all members of Aqua Publica Europea.
The President of Aqua Publica Europea, Mr Bernard Van Nuffel, closed the conference by recalling that "all the presentations listening today contained a clear call to action to tackle climate change" and he added that "the members of Aqua Publica Europea are committed to working with all the stakeholders to implement nature-based solutions that will benefit all together citizens and the planet".
- Hervé Douville, Coordinating Author of Chapter 8 of the Sixth IPCC Report (Water cycle changes)
- EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, Willem Jan Goossen, European Commission, Directorate-General for Climate Action – Adaptation Unit
- Translating international objectives in concrete, context-based policies – Jon Rathjen, Deputy Director Water Policy & DECC Operations, Scottish Government
- The role of regional authorities in the climate transition - Emilie Lavender, Brussels Region’s Environmental Authority
- Recommendations for climate adaptation strategies – Jan Verheeke, European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils Network
- Nature-based solutions in Europe: policy, knowledge and practice – Ybele Hoogeveen, European Environment Agency
- Nature-based solutions for climate change: opportunities and challenges – Eva Hernandez, WWF Europe
- Economic benefits of nature-based solutions: instruments to support decision-making – Sien Kok, Deltares
- EIB’s experience in financing nature-based solutions for climate adaptation in the water sector - Marco Beros, Lead Engineer – Water Division, European Investment Bank
- Marco Callerio, CAP Holding (Milan)
- Maria José Chesa Marro, BCASA (Barcelona)
- Armando Quazzo, SMAT (Turin)