Nature must be at the heart of our cities: the places we work, play and engage. Urban nature-based solutions address multiple challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss, disaster risk, water and food security, human health and socio-economic development.
People and nature benefit when the natural environment in and around cities is enhanced.
Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are defined by the IUCN 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.’’
According to WWF, NbS address clear societal challenges: food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk, natural and economic development, whilst protecting nature through monitoring of robust indicators.
The solutions exist and nature provides many of the answers, including in our cities. Learning from natural systems and processes can guide urban policies and help cities and local communities become more resilient and stable. Through urban NbS both people and nature benefit when the natural environment in and around cities is enhanced. NbS can help foster sustainable urban development, while meeting climate adaptation and mitigation goals. They help biodiversity to thrive and human habitats to become more resilient. Incorporating nature in cities improves their livability, particularly for vulnerable population, by reducing temperatures, filtering water and cleaning air.
WWF has a unique role to play in developing urban NbS, linking our experience on nature conservation and on urban sustainability, building “glocal” momentum and advocacy for urban NbS, to support WWF’s wider conservation and climate goals.
Cities leading the way : examples of urban nature
The growth in urban NbS can be witnessed across the globe: in urban and peri-urban areas, in global mega-cities and villages, in cities in the Global North and South, in coastal zones and inland areas, including cities and towns bordering agriculture habitat and biodiversity hotspots, such as forests and wetlands. NbS should correspond to the local context and ecosystem, but a closer integration between cities and nature is possible in multiple contexts.
WWF has developed a new report featuring eight successful NbS implemented in cities around the world, demonstrating how nature can deliver multiple benefits to tackle biodiversity loss and the climate crisis in cities, while improving urban quality of life. It aims to share the important role of cities adopting nature targets to help restore our relationship with the natural world to realize the promise of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for a net-zero, #NaturePositive world.
Urban socio-ecological corridors
WWF is working to leverage synergies and collaboration among our offices and partners to connect cities with strategic ecosystems to improve urban resilience for healthier cities and communities.
Building on knowledge, tools and partnerships, WWF is working to restore, protect and create urban social-ecological corridors to deliver three objectives:
- Promote resilient, net-zero and nature-positive cities
- Develop greener, safer, healthier and more equitable cities
- Enhance the people-nature connection through education and environmental stewardship.
What are urban socio-ecological corridors?
They are networks of interconnected NbS interventions across urban and peri-urban landscapes that support ecosystem functions to provide benefits for people and nature. They involve a continuous process of collaborative, integrated and transformative design, planning and implementation at landscape scale to build resilience, with social and ecological benefits, including:
- Natural habitat, for biodiversity and natural species migration
- Open green spaces, for recreation
- Carbon sequestration to achieve climate mitigation goals
- Water regulation, provision and purification, for water security and disaster risk reduction
- Greener and healthier transportation, including by implementing bicycle lanes in these corridors and promoting more walkable cities
- Cleaner air, by using urban NbS as a natural filter
- Reduced temperatures, including by addressing the urban heat island effect
Policy & Advocacy
The planet needs ambitious commitments and actions by national governments to reverse nature loss and address the climate crisis, especially within key global processes including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Cities, regions and other stakeholders must be included in key decisions, as they have a critical role to play in delivering ambitious climate and biodiversity outcomes at these meetings and through related campaigns (e.g. the Cities Race To Zero, Cities Race to Resilience and the Nature Action Agenda). Governments must heed the call, show leadership and encourage transformational change.
Cities should include nature-based solutions in their local climate and sustainability plans, which are even more powerful when combined with commitments to end deforestation and habitat conversion.