31 October 2019

World Cities Day: the power of CitiesWithNature

Today is UN World Cities Day, a day to recognise the critical role cities play internationally, to promote cooperation between cities regarding urban opportunities and challenges, and to support sustainable urban development.

The theme of this year’s World Cities Day is, “Changing the world: innovations and better life for future generations.” Cities are hubs of innovation, thinking and investing in smart solutions. In reflecting on this, however, we must also consider that the most innovative solutions for cities are often at the "root" of our local communities. Innovative solutions are nature-based, and come from committing to urban biodiversity, even through simple acts like planting trees.

Cities are stepping-up their commitments to bring nature back into our cities. As of today, 100 pioneering cities have done this through joining and contributing to the CitiesWithNature platform.

CitiesWithNature is a global platform for cities and other subnational governments, their communities, and experts to connect, share and learn from each other in mainstreaming nature into our cities in ways that benefit both people and nature.

Since the platform launched in May, cities have continued to join and engage, demonstrating their commitments to protecting and fostering urban nature. “I am delighted to see the growing interest of cities in urban biodiversity, an issue that plays a crucial role for resilient cities and the well-being of their citizens,” said Mayor Valérie Plante, City of Montréal and ICLEI’s Global Ambassador for Local Biodiversity.

CitiesWithNature is free to join, and open to all cities and subnational governments, regardless of size or level of progress in working with nature. Initially, a commitment, along with some basic information, is all that is needed to register and start participating. It is structured in such a way that cities can decide how involved they want to be – the more actively they engage and contribute, the more benefits they will receive.

The platform leads cities through pathways to help foster urban nature. The first pathway, called the Nature Pathway, guides cities through a series of 27 steps, each dealing with a milestone in the process of mainstreaming nature and implementing nature-based solutions. It is based on an established methodology, which has been refined and tested by ICLEI and others over many years.

Through the nature pathway, cities are able to share their policies, plans, commitments, actions and results related to nature, and access a wide variety of practical resources and innovative tools, projects, services and information offered by leading global organisations and experts.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recently released a report that estimates that one million species are threatened with extinction and extinction rates are only accelerating. The report finds that the current global response is insufficient and transformative change is urgently needed.

Cities are embracing their role as catalysts for this change by sharing and showcasing their work through the CitiesWithNature platform, thereby learning from others’ successes, challenging leaders to take further action, and inspiring change. ICLEI Europe Members already contributing to CitiesWithNature include Bonn (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), ─░zmir (Turkey), Reykjavik (Iceland), and Växjö and Malmö (Sweden).

CitiesWithNature also hosts UrbanByNature – a global capacity-building and expertise-sharing programme to empower local governments to harness the potential of nature for sustainable urban development – organised by ICLEI Europe and supported by the Connecting Nature project.

The first phase of the programme focuses on connecting Brazilian and European cities. Next, cities in China, South Korea, and the Caucasus will participate in locally-tailored activities. Upcoming UrbanByNature events are open for registration.

CitiesWithNature was developed out of a need by cities and has a long history, building on previous international programmes. It was founded by ICLEI, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), along with supporting bodies such as the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and other global partners.

The platform has been endorsed by the SCBD as the official vehicle through which cities and subnational governments can share and report on their biodiversity commitments and ambitions towards the Action Agenda for Nature and People and in shaping the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

For more information and to join leading cities on this journey, please click here. To stay updated on UrbanByNature, register here to the UrbanByNature Programme.