The scientific foundation of the world’s first global assessment on the relationship between urbanization and biodiversity loss, entitled Cities and Biodiversity Outlook (CBO), was presented last week in Brussels at an event organized by IUCN and SRC as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities.
The assessment argues that cities should facilitate for a rich biodiversity and take stewardship of crucial ecosystem services rather than being the cause of large ecological footprints. The book is produced by Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) together with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in partnership with UN-Habitat and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and has involved more than 200 scientists worldwide.
It states that over 60% of the land projected to become urban by 2030 has yet to be built and if current trends continue, 70% of the global population will be urban by 2050. These developments presents a major opportunity to greatly improve global sustainability by promoting low-carbon, resource-efficient urban development that can reduce adverse effects on biodiversity and improve quality of life, it says.
Decision-makers and planners from Amsterdam, Brussels and Nantes, as the European Green Capital of 2013, shared their experiences on the integration of ecosystem services in urban planning and management to improve social and economic development in highly urbanized parts of Europe. Services provided by urban green spaces can have economic effects, such as reducing costs of public health and adding value, for example to real estate prices.
Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN European Union Representative Office emphasized that “Integrating nature-based solutions in local and regional decision-making, urban planning and management offers many benefits: it enhances quality of life, saves money, promotes economic development, ensures food security and reduces the impacts of climate change.”
The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook highlights the potential role of urban ecological infrastructure in enhancing urban resilience. The incorporation of native biodiversity into new and existing parks and landscape designs is an important element of an integrated holistic approach to create sustainable urban infrastructure. For instance, green corridors along highways, railways, bikeways or riparian zones and park infrastructure fulfill multiple functions in addition to enhancing biodiversity.
Charlina Vitcheva, Director for Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development and Northern Europe at the European Commission Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy, urged for stronger involvement of local authorities in Europe’s sustainable development and to ensure the uptake of nature based solutions in structural funding programmes. She added that: “It is important for the European Commission to provoke change to bridge sustainable development with the urban dimension and integrate green infrastructure and ecosystem services horizontally in the EU 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”.
What is important, according to the assessment, is to develop and incorporate already existing green spaces into the functional infrastructure of a city. "The innovation lies not so much in developing new infrastructural technologies but to work with what we already have. The results are often far cheaper and more sustainable as well," said Professor Thomas Elmqvist, scientific editor of the assessment.
The book is a more detailed scientific background to the shorter report Cities and Biodiversity Outlook - Action and Policy, which was launched at the United Nations Conference of the Parties 11 to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, in October 2012.
Read more about the CBO assessment, download the book, and watch the CBO video narrated by Edward Norton here.