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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.

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".