IUCN and Deltares hosted a side-event and roundtable session during the conference “Green Infrastructure: Nature-based Solutions for Sustainable and Resilient Cities”, which was held from 4-7 April in Orvieto, Italy. This conference was organised by the COST Action FP1204 project “Greeninurbs”, coordinated by the IUCN Member Consiglio Nationale delle Ricerche and brought together around 400 experts from Europe and around the world for an exchange on the benefits of nature-based solutions for urban quality of life. The main objective was to show how a transdisciplinary approach to urban planning, based on the provision of ecosystem services, can make future cities more resilient and sustainable.
One of the best ways to convince decision makers, politicians, business representatives, policymakers, and others of the opportunities provided by nature-based solutions is to draw on real‐life examples to demonstrate their potential socio-economic benefits. To that end, the IUCN-Deltares side-event highlighted successful examples and best practices showcasing how nature‐based solutions can be effectively implemented and mainstreamed across sectors and policy areas, and encourage interactions between representatives from science, policy, business, practice and civil society.
Susana Saiz, EU Sustainability Leader from Arup, explained how the Madrid Climate Change Department initiated concrete action that lead to the involvement of other departments and the uptake of nature-based solutions in the City Master Plan. It focused on small scale, as well as neighbourhood and city wide solutions, based on a quantification of the impacts in five areas. This resulted in success stories such as the restoration of the Manzanares river, which brings benefits for biodiversity, as well as for the quality of life of its citizens.
Suzanne van der Meulen, Specialist Ecosystem Services of Deltares, highlighted ways to improve knowledge for the design of effective nature-based solutions. She explained that the choice of species, a good understanding of the local context and the involvement of stakeholders in the design is essential to optimise the services delivered by green infrastructure.
The CityTree, developed by the start-up company Green City Solutions, is a unique combination of Internet of Things and plants to solve air pollution, using the natural capability of special moss cultures to bind large amounts of CO2 equivalents, out of the air, while monitoring the improved air quality in real time. Dénes Honus, CEO of Green City Solutions recognised the huge market potential for urban air purification systems and gave his perspective on the development of a business case for nature-based solutions.
Simone Borelli, Forestry Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) showed an example of a project in Cape Verde to establish green areas in four cities to provide a range of ecosystem services such as sand dune stabilisation, soil erosion control and reducing storm water runoff. In many developing countries, there is an extreme pressure on forest ecosystems, which has severe impacts on livelihoods. Key factors for creating positive change is awareness about the benefits of forests for health and well-being, the involvement of local communities, and capacity building on forestry with local actors to make nature an integral part of urban planning.
During the high-level roundtable at the end of the conference, Holger Robrecht, Deputy Director of ICLEI Europe noted that nature-based solutions are implemented only in a few cities and he made a case for a vision at city scale to mainstream nature-based solutions and to upscale effective solutions to other cities. Daniel Boulens, Director of Green Spaces of the City of Lyon and Jonathan Vann, Environmental Consultant from the UK, highlighted the importance of finding a good balance between financing for development and maintenance of green infrastructure and that urban planning is a process that requires wisdom from many local stakeholders.Victor Beumer, Landscape Ecologist & Coordinator Nature-based Engineering at Deltares, concluded that scaling up and mainstreaming nature-based solutions, requires improved awareness and understanding of their impacts, as well as bringing the worlds of science, financing, urban planning and citizens closer together to develop collective actions.