Engineering Nature-Based Solutions (NBS)-examining the barriers to effective intervention

Ian Mell, Sarah Clement, Fearghus O'Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


A growing body of research is examining how Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) are offering planners, politicians and engineers options to promote respond to a wide range of biophysical and socio-economic problems. However, despite the increasing popularity of NBS, there is limited analysis available on how these 'solutions' align with urban problems, at what scale they are most effective, and what costs are associated with investment in urban nature. This paper analyses current approaches to urban sustainability via an examination of the EU Funded Horizon 2020-funded project, URBAN GreenUP, in Liverpool (UK) to deconstruct how rhetoric translates to practical applications of NBS interventions. It interrogates the interactions of projects, policies and political buy-in for NBS, and argues that an integrated understanding of scale, function, and location is needed to successfully address issues of urban climate change vulnerability. This is contextualised against the wider discussions of NBS associated with other EU-funded projects. It concludes that although investment in NBS offer a useful approach to development, they cannot overcome existing barriers to investment in environmental improvements without attention to the same barriers that have always existed. Moreover, the paper argues that the promotion of NBS as solutions to problems is only effective when the problems are transparently and collaboratively defined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-247
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Engineering Sustainability
Issue number5
Early online date16 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


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