water systems in green field

Using Systemic Approaches and Simulation to Scale Nature-Based Infrastructure for Climate Adaptation

Together with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the MAVA Foundation, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), IISD is working on systemic approaches and simulations for nature-based infrastructure (NBI). 

This landmark collaboration will promote the use of systems thinking, system dynamics simulation, and project finance modelling, the core pillars of the SAVi methodology, to plan and prepare NBI projects.    

Overall, the project aims to increase confidence in all market participants, including project developers, design and engineering firms, cities, national governments, and public and private investors, in the use and performance of NBI. 

One of the major challenges for scaling up NBI is understanding and valuing how it performs in comparison to “grey” or “built” infrastructure. It is also essential for decision-makers to understand the full scope of costs and benefits beyond the traditional metrics used in financial valuations and to value how NBI performs under different climate change scenarios. Indeed, climate change is a material risk to all infrastructure projects, and NBIs are often better equipped to protect us from the impacts of climate change.   

Using systems thinking and simulations that look at climate change risks and will incorporate environmental, social, and economic benefits, costs, and externalities will increase the predictability and certainty of NBI performance, either as a replacement for or complement to traditional “grey” infrastructure. This is essential for shifting investment and finance toward NBI, as well as for NBI design and implementation.   


This new GEF–MAVA-funded project will offer decision-makers the opportunity to receive customized valuations, based on the SAVi methodology, that calculate the dollar value of:   

  • The ecosystem services delivered by a given project, as well as their direct and indirect co-benefits.
  • The financial performance of the ecosystem services under different climate change scenarios, with climate data derived from the Copernicus Climate Data Store.
  • The capital and operating costs of grey infrastructure required to provide the same level of services.   

The project encompasses four components: 

4 steps method

For the climate change scenarios, we will draw from IISD’s ongoing collaboration with the Copernicus Climate Change (C3S) Service, which has allowed us to integrate world-class climate data into SAVi assessments.  

Finally, the project will provide a strong evidence base for GEF and its partners to mainstream NBI in their investments. It will also contribute to the Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) Action Track of the Global Commission on Adaptation.  

The GEF–MAVA project will be executed by IISD, while UNIDO will be the GEF implementing agency. GEF support comes from its Special Climate Change Fund. This work is also a key input into the work of the Global Commission on Adaptation.  

funder banner for nbi includes Mava, GEF and UNIDO