WRI: Investing in nature is most cost-effective for water crisis

Stockholm, Sep 3 (EFE).- When it comes to the ecological crisis, World Resources Institute (WRI) expert Todd Gartner insists on betting on “all of the above” solutions: reducing consumption and emissions while investing in technology and nature, “the most cost-effective option” available.

Gartner, director of the Cities4Forests program at WRI, talked about the climate crisis in an interview with EFE at World Water Week 2022, a international conference on water that took place this week in Stockholm (Sweden).

The specialist emphasized the commitment to nature-based solutions (NBS), actions to improve the ecosystem and aimed at resisting climate impacts related to water (such as droughts and floods), and to mitigate warming.

According to Gartner, NBS investments are booming especially in Latin America and other regions of the Global South, where “the greatest opportunity to deploy nature for a multitude of benefits” lies, as it is in this part of the world that “will see the highest percentage of infrastructure investment over the next two decades.”

“The decisions we make about how infrastructure is developed” will make the difference, he argued, and warned that “if we limit ourselves to built systems,” i.e. concrete, “we condemn ourselves to a three-degrees future” of warming (compared to pre-industrial levels).

That is why in Latin America and the Caribbean there are “hundreds of projects, most of them relatively small-scale,” he says, “but in aggregate they add up to a huge amount of benefit in terms of clean water, clean air, jobs for local communities,” and other improvements to human and environmental health.

Gartner argued that NBSs are currently the most economically profitable, being “the most cost-effective option available,” although it is true that “the longer you wait, the more expensive any given solution is and the narrower the window” to obtain results in time to reverse ecological devastation, a challenge that the scientific community estimates will have to be overcome in less than a decade.

When referring to NBSs, the expert thinks of two different scales: on the one hand, those designed for cities and, on the other, those for river basins.

At the urban level, he gave the example of Jakarta (Indonesia), a city that WRI has helped to pass new regulations requiring more trees to be planted in the city so that every neighborhood will have a green space “within walking distance” by 2030.

If successful, the initiative could achieve several things: “reduce urban flooding; dramatically clean the air, as trees and green spaces act as a filter; and make for a healthier society through outdoor recreation and exercise opportunities,” Gartner said.

At the watershed level, the expert referred specifically to the case of Vitoria, in the State of Espírito Santo, Brazil.

In the last decade, the state has suffered a severe drought that has lowered the average rainwater input by 65%, according to official records, contributing to a water crisis that has led to water rationing policies and supply cuts.

Last year, a study by WRI’s Brazil team showed that the Espírito Santo government could gain more from its investments in reserves by backing green infrastructure such as native forests to help keep watersheds healthy.

WRI has just spearheaded the development of a plan that “will lead to the restoration of more than 600,000 acres of priority forests around the cities” in the Brazilian state.

Gartner stressed that this commitment to forest mass will “dramatically” ensure that more water will be available, which will translate into “more water security for decades” at a much lower cost than if they “simply tried to build their way out of the water challenges they face” with gray infrastructure. EFE


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