Challenge 4: Governance and institutional gap

The gap between major global and European ambitions and the relatively small amount of on-the-ground action needs to be bridged. We need extra financial resources and a supportive (local) legislative and regulatory framework to achieve this.

Governance and institutional gap

In order to ensure the sustainable management of water resources, BwN measures should be implemented by a broad, multi-disciplinary range of decision and policy makers at several institutional levels (i.e. locally, regionally and nationally). Generally, there is insufficient local governance of the water management, agriculture and forestry sectors from the perspective of river catchment management and climate adaptation. From this perspective, municipalities must sufficiently implement flood management and climate action plans in local or national legislation as part of their spatial planning. They also need to integrate storm water management into flood management and climate adaptation. These local regulations and legislation will bridge the gap between global and European ambitions and local actions for BwN.

A Policy Brief targeting at EU level

This policy brief provides an overview of the needs and key policy requirements for wider dissemination and uptake BwN or Nature-Based
Solutions (NBS), to deal with flood risks in the EU, while enhancing ecosystem services and other co-benefits. Although the situation in every country is different, and different national policy briefs are developed, there are key interrelated barriers that apply to all countries along the North Sea Region:

  1. Accountability: in which situations do nature-based solutions work and how do they work?
  2. Understanding the local context: do we fully understand the local situation?
  3. Bankable business cases: how do we make a compelling business case?
    The overarching reason behind them is the need to compare NBS with traditional measures (e.g. a sea wall or dyke strengthening). It is of crucial importance to know why and how a natural solution can be a better option than, or go in a hybrid solution with, a conventional flood risk measure.

A Research Agenda and Summary Report

The purpose of this document is to outline and illustrate barriers for implementation, which can inspire and steer the direction of future European projects on NBS for climate adaptation and flood resilience. Although the challenges for mainstreaming BwN are different in every country, there are four overarching barriers that hamper mainstreaming of BwN:

  1. Lack of knowledge on system performance and monitoring
  2. Knowledge gap on the local situation and stakeholders
  3. The bankable business case, and
  4. A suboptimal governmental/institutional setting.

Recommendations for future programs and research

By working together on the concept of BwN, the partners and the Policy Learning Group of BwN have formulated recommendations for future programs and research to overcome these barriers and foster the implementation of NBS in Europe:

  1. Create a solid performance evidence base and a tested framework.
  2. Get to know the local setting and the stakeholders involved.
  3. Learn how to quantify multiple benefits and functions with the right business case tool.

From the project meetings it became clear that every country has a different legal framework and different routines during the project preparations. These legislations sometimes tend to stimulate the development of grey measures over green ones, even in nature conservation areas, such as Natura 200014.
To identify these barriers, there is a need for a comparative study highlighting the different legal frameworks and working routines in the NSR countries. This study should assess what the barriers are for BwN, and if these barriers also exist for grey solutions. This will help to create evidence about the reasons why a relative prioritising attitude exists towards the selection of grey measures, although BwN measures generally respond more adequately to societal preferences. It should result in tailor-made approaches to overcome the governance and legislative barriers for mainstreaming BwN, which especially counts for the barriers in or adjacent to, nature conservation areas such as N2000.