Land is a finite and essential natural resource. Yet, it is subject to competing pressures from urbanization, infrastructure, increased food, feed, fibre and fuel production while at the same time land is expected to continue providing key ecosystem services. With high concentration of people and limited space, cities are greatly exposed to these pressures, which affects the ecosystem services that land and biodiversity can provide. Yet, as the local consequences of climate change are growing and increasingly impacting urban resilience and quality of life, ecosystem benefits to the urban environment are becoming more and more important to consider.
Increasingly there is well-documented recognition and awareness that biodiversity provides solutions that use and deploy the properties of natural ecosystems in an efficient way to tackle air and water pollution as well as heat islands, waves and flash floods - all which are impacting cities' economy, social security and nature. These nature-based solutions (NBS) provide sustainable, cost-effective, multi-purpose and flexible alternatives.
After having addressed similar issues through the 3rd UIA Call for Proposals under the topic “Adaptation to climate change”, the 4th UIA Call focussed on helping strengthening local authorities’ capacity to promote and implement bold Sustainable Use of Land & Nature Based Solutions (SUL & NBS).
The Call stressed the importance of NBS as key drivers to ensure an inclusive urban regeneration and an efficient land use that would discourage urban sprawl, focus on “inward” development and hence promote natural physical, social and economic regeneration and environmental benefits. Cities were invited to propose innovative solutions related to two main approaches, while also demonstrating the capacity to diversify local economies and develop sustainable business schemes:
- Implementing innovative green and blue infrastructures: adapting existing infrastructure, renaturing urban and periurban areas, regenerating brownfields and underutilised lands in order to reduce soil pollution, soil sealing water infiltration and protecting from the impact of soil sealing.
- Rethinking land use planning and governance tools: setting-up a long term strategy for urban planning to decide which land use functions are preferred, help define different economic regeneration drivers and activities, other than public subsidy, creation of innovative and financial and business models, e.g. through the innovative combination of local fiscal and spatial urban planning and design.