UrbanByNature: The Global Programme for Urban Nature Pioneers
In times of rapid urbanisation, increasing population, resource depletion, degradation of ecosystems, growing pressures on urban land use and climate change, nature-based solutions (NBS) provide opportunities for both society and nature. The UrbanByNature programme supports cities and practitioners in applying NBS that are cost-effective and mutually beneficial.
Why do Nature-Based Solutions Matter?
According to the European Commission, nature-based solutions (NBS) refer to “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.”
Another characteristic of NBS is that they are multifunctional, meaning they deliver manifold services at the same time. For instance, an urban park offers recreational space for people but can also become a hub for urban biodiversity. Multiple services are provided by such parks, for instance, regulation of temperature by providing cooling effects and hence lowering heat stress in the cities, providing food, supporting sewage treatment and rainwater systems, providing better air quality by filtering particulate matters, and reducing noise pollution while also acting as a carbon sink. Furthermore, urban parks can also lead to social cohesion by providing meeting spaces, whilst supporting health and well-being.
Thus, NBS are not solutions to singular problems but rather act as an umbrella response to many challenges that cities and societies in general are facing. NBS are to be built upon a holistic approach, based on a system’s perspective, which considers the recovery potential of resources and the symbiosis with different approaches. The combination of an array of different services and the reduction, reuse, and recovery of resources will increase co-benefits for urban areas.
UrbanByNature – An Expertise Sharing and Capacity Building Programme to Bring Nature and Nature-Driven Processes Back into Cities
UrbanByNature was designed by ICLEI Europe with the support of Connecting Nature, a European Horizon2020 NBS project for climate and water resilience, and is hosted by CitiesWithNature, the commitment and reporting platform for biodiversity at global level, endorsed by the Secretariat for Convention on Biological Diversity. It focusses on capacity-building and knowledge exchange to support the planning and implementation of NBS.
With this programme we want to, together, lift the barriers to urban nature and set our cities and towns on a new green and blue course. The vision of the programme is “to give local governments, civil society and businesses the opportunity to co-create a sustainable and resilient urban future using nature’s innovative potential.”
The programme has a solid foundation taking into consideration relevant methodologies such as the Green Climate City programme and the Green City Action plan methodology for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), both developed by ICLEI, as well as the CitiesWithNature Initiative, designed by ICLEI, IUCN, and the Nature Conservancy. Furthermore, the International standard ISO 37101 “Sustainable development in communities” was also consulted to determine a holistic approach for the UrbanByNature programme.
The integrated management cyclical approach has been set up in consultation with the mentioned relevant approaches to avoid duplication or reinvention of the wheel. Furthermore, UrbanByNature’s concept also builds on the building blocks of the “Connecting Nature Framework” (Technical design, Indicators, Financing and Business Models, Entrepreneurship, Governance, Co-production and Reflexive Monitoring), which will be shared on the Connecting Nature website soon.
Who Joins and How Does it Work?
The programme caters to a wide audience in general by being an open programme for anyone interested to attend and know more about NBS. However, specific focus has been given to the Brazilian, Caucasusian, South Korean, and Chinese hubs by developing different streams for each region. This is done in alignment with the global outreach plan of Connecting Nature. The targeted audience for the programme ranges from governments, businesses, academia, and non-governmental organisations, to city officials and representatives such as staff working for various departments (Environment and Greening, Urban Planning, Public Spaces, Public Health, Sustainable Development, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, Sustainable Procurement, et cetera), planners, technicians, resilience officers, and policy officers.
The programme consists of face-to-face meetings and online, step-by-step webinars to support cities in understanding the planning approach for innovative NBS for water and climate resilience. There is constant engagement of experts from Connecting Nature and the project cities and city administrators for a good mix of input and insights on several different topics, also tailored to the region.
The topics are varied and relate to the cyclical approach followed by the programme. The steps are ‘Join (Step1) – Explore (Step2) – Prioritise (Step3) – Commit and Plan (Step4) – Implement (Step5) – Monitor (Step6) and Upscale (Step7)’.
Each step is brought to the fore in dedicated webinars, where experts and city officials share knowledge and experiences with the large audience pertinent to the relevant step of the cycle. The webinar’s audience is formed by members who registered for UrbanByNature and those who found it through different channels. The registration is free of charge and at the moment there are almost 600 registered members, only growing in number with time.
This programme not only organises webinars on different thematic areas such as Technical NBS, Co-creation and Entrepreneurship but also dedicated face-to-face workshops. Recently, Daniela Rizzi from ICLEI ES presented the further workings of the UrbanByNature programme in the Brazilian context at the III EU-Sector Dialogues on Nature-Based Solutions in Brazil, where a dedicated session to explore the concept of Nature-based Entrepreneurship was carried out, raising interest to the rise of a Brazilian NBS Cluster.
What Can You Do? Connect and Learn With Us!
Anyone interested in learning and sharing about the values and benefits of nature-based solutions are welcome to join us in this journey! Please register here and keep yourself up-to-date with the upcoming events and webinars of UrbanByNature. If you are interested in our past webinars, please feel free to watch them on the YouTube channels of CitiesWithNature or Connecting Nature.