Cities are engines for development and provide opportunities for innovation and interaction. But cities can also exacerbate some of the world’s most serious environmental and socioeconomic challenges, and at the same time citizens and urban infrastructure are facing vulnerable. For cities to make peace with nature, we need to plan and design cities and urban infrastructure with nature in mind.
Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can help cities address urgent and fundamental environmental challenges by bringing ecosystems services back into cities and rebalancing cities’ relationships with their surrounding areas. By accelerating the implementation of NbS, decision-makers can help cities adapt to effects of climate change, reduce urban heat island effects and cooling needs in buildings, clean air, manage water.
This report, produced by UNEP in close collaboration with the Italian Presidency of the G20, investigates the potential of NbS to help build smart, sustainable and resilient cities, drawing from more than a decade of research and experience from G20 countries and beyond. It offers an overview of the best practices of NbS implementation in cities around the world, and a set of guiding principles to improve territorial governance and establish multi-level governance frameworks to increase the impact and coherence of policies and private investments.
Understanding nature-based solutions
There is as yet no single, multilaterally accepted definition of NbS. The most commonly used definition is from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which defines NbS as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. This paper takes the view that NbS is an umbrella concept that encompasses a range of other established approaches, such as ecosystem-based adaptation, ecosystem-based management, green infrastructure and blue-green infrastructure and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction. However, which term is used is less important than the broad principle of bringing nature into cities for the multiple benefits that it can deliver.
The goal is to inspire further action by national governments and city authorities to enhance NbS in cities to reduce their vulnerability to climate change. In this framework, Covid-19 recovery plans offer a great opportunity to scale up NbS in cities, with a view to building back better in ways that protect, conserve, and restore our ecosystems and their services, while addressing the social and economic challenges of urban areas and significantly reducing environmental impacts.
The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Nature-based Solutions for Disaster and Climate Resilience
In January 2021, UNEP launched a new open online course on Nature-based Solutions for Disaster and Climate Resilience. This course shows how people around the world are already building resilience to disasters and climate change impacts through nature-based solutions. The course is open to everyone who would like to deepen their knowledge of the application of nature-based solutions. Governments, civil society and the private sector are also invited to share best practice on how to apply and manage nature-based solutions to restore or protect our ecosystems and biodiversity.