30 August 2019

Cities find natural solutions to global challenges

People around the world are calling for governments to step up and take action on the global climate emergency. Creating conditions for social, ecological, and infrastructural resilience in the context of rapid urbanisation and a biodiversity extinction crisis is one of the key urban, and global, challenges of the 21st century. Where adaptation solutions can make cities more resilient to climate change, nature-based solutions can future-proof cities’ infrastructure, communities and local economy for the people who live there.

Nature-based solutions are an important tool for building resilience and adaptation and form one of ICLEI’s five pathways towards sustainable urban development. ICLEI’s biodiversity action plan, in cooperation with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), reinforces the commitment from both parties to the implementation on a local and regional level of a number of key international processes, notably the Paris Climate Agreement and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Alice Reil, Coordinator, Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity at ICLEI Europe said: “If we want to develop our urban areas sustainably and future-proof them together with all who live and work in our towns and cities across Europe, then we need to make nature-based solutions part of how we envision and plan our cityscapes.

Pioneering cities are looking for new approaches to urban development that support ecosystems and biodiversity, improve quality of life and health overall, support sustainable local businesses that can replace outdated industries, and make for accessible urban systems that are flexible enough to include all sectors of society. Scientists and forward-thinking urban practitioners are increasingly looking to nature-based solutions as a promising new path.

Green spaces can markedly improve quality of life by making the air cleaner, providing an area to meet others from the local community and to play sports. ICLEI Member Hamburg (Germany) is in the process of expanding the district of Neugraben-Fischbek, which is planned to house thousands of new residents in the coming decades. To achieve a cohesive and inclusive community, the City of Hamburg is co-creating nature-based solutions in the district that will be accessible and useful to the whole community.

Bringing communities together through shared activities while increasing awareness of the importance of reducing pesticides and promoting pollinators in the local ecosystem, ICLEI Member Cascais (Portugal) developed an urban agriculture programme which includes holding workshops for schools and the local community. The programme has been received favourably: “Community vegetable gardens, are really in demand from the local residents, who want to be in contact with nature,” said Teresa Ribeiro, Landscape Architect for the City of Cascais.

Residents of ICLEI Member Wroclaw (Poland) can receive up to 80 percent co-funding to build a rain garden as part of a campaign to encourage residents to sustainably manage rainwater on their own premises. Katarzyna Szymczak-Pomianowska, Director of the Sustainability Department, City of Wroclaw, said: “We believe that green and blue infrastructure will help us build the resilience of Wroclaw. And our residents not only accept it, but expect it!

With more and more cities turning to nature-based solutions to tackle urban problems, there is a growing need for cooperation and the sharing of good practices and case studies. ICLEI Europe and Connecting Nature have responded to this need by launching UrbanByNature, a global programme for urban nature practitioners to learn how to systematically plan and implement the right nature-based interventions to address challenges and set the urban development on a new trajectory.

For more information on UrbanByNature, please click here.