Urban Greening Plans – to protect and enhance urban biodiversity and nature

  • environment

We had an excellent discussion on the global status on biodiversity, on different biodiversity and green infrastructure strategies, and what the Urban Greening Plans should achieve. All the presentations and your plans below (after login). And here it is, the write-up, just for you….

Our planets flaura and fauna are in a dire and declining state. The latest Living Planet Report produced by WWF shows an average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. But it is still possible to reverse this trend, as explained by Anthony Pearce, WWF Cities. The Bending the Curve Initiative provides ‘proof of concept’ that we can halt, and reverse, the loss of nature while feeding a growing population. This initiative uses multiple integrated computer simulation models to help us understand how we can reverse the loss of nature, save millions of species from extinction, and guard humans against a risky future. From this, WWF provides a number of scenarios including increased conservation, more sustainable production and more sustainable consumption.

So with the need for urgent action clearly evidenced, what are our cities doing?

Amsterdam has developed a long-term Green Infrastructure Vision 2050. The vision addresses health, social well being, climate adaptation and nature and consists of four principles: ensuring enough and diverse green spaces for everyone; ensuring that green infrastructure in multifunctional; integrating biodiversity into urban planning, construction, and management; working together on green spaces. By integrating biodiversity into urban panning, Amsterdam is focusing on the development of ecological passages and structures, tackling an identified 180 barriers such as streets through the development of fauna passages, for example. Find out more in the below presentations and additional material (after login).

Manchester has a highly integrated strategy for green infrastructure that works together with its Climate Adaptation Strategy, Manchester Local Plan, Parks Strategy, Trees and Woodland Strategy and it’s Biodiversity Staretgy (which is currently being revised). A key focus is turing policy into action, so the basis is to focus on needs and wants of the community and opportunities, but also having commitments from department heads. To understand what green space there is in Manchester, the city has undertaken highly detailed mapping on a neighbourhood level including for factors such as air quality and tree cover.  The city also working with an environmental charity through the My Wild City project to develop a new biodiversity strategy. Want to know more? See the presentations and additional material from Manchester below (after login).

We asked you about local biodiversity action plans and green infrastructure strategies, there seems to be quite a difference between cities across Europe. Some cities have a biodiversity action plan, some have a green infrastructure plan, while others have both and some have neither! It’s clear that a key aim of the Urban Greening Plans should be to ensure some baseline understanding for cities on their local biodiversity and provide a trajectory for greening and renaturing the city. More on your individual responses below… But first, what should cities consider when designing biodiversity and green infrastructure strategies? What should the Urban Greening Plans include? Anthony, from WWF Cities, highlighted the need for cities to consider their wider impact on global biodiversity through consumption.

Here’s what you said the Urban Greening Plans should achieve:

  • Umbrella strategy for mainstreaming/integrating nature policies into other policy areas
  • Provide a baseline understanding of status of biodiversity and a plan to protect and enhance this
  • Provide a baseline understanding of green areas, with a focus on biodiversity, with plans to protect and enhance accessibility
  • Guidance on tools available for assessing ecosystem services (in urban areas) and quantifying these in economic terms

What else should these Urban Greening Plans achieve? What do you need from the technical guidance to develop and implement such plans? This is your chance to tell the Commission what you need. We’re developing a list of essential ‘building blocks’ for the Urban Greening Plans. You can input into the below document (available after login) until Friday 6 November. After this date, we’ll send our feedback to the European Commission.

What are the challenges for mainstreaming nature policies into different sectors?

We asked you a few questions in the registration to our meeting and over 30 of you responded, thanks! Here’s a quick overview:

  • economic interests (this was THE top barrier reported; limited funding, competing demands)
  • financial & administrative
  • siloed thinking prevents cross-disciplinary action/cooperation
  • budgetary obstacles preventing the city's separated departments from co-sharing green investment costs not to mention maintenance & upkeep of created NBS and other green investments
  • stuck in old structures of working
  • politics of different departments compete
  • creating links between existing regulations and new plans
  • biodiversity is not a priority / competing priorities
  • rapid urbanisation
  • dentifying space in dense cities / competing demands for space
  • low spatial processes and hard to change old decisions
  • financing de-paving / supporting shift from concrete car centred cities to permeable green cities (citizens and budget barriers)
  • conflicting objectives
  • improve knowledge about nature, ecosystem services and benefits of biodiversity at all levels and value them economically
  • no financial weight for implementation of mainstreamed nature policies (short termism)

We asked you about local biodiversity action plans and green infrastructure strategies, your responses are available in the below document (after login).

This is hardly the end of these discussion. We’ll delve further into Urban Greening Plans and work together to ensure all our cities can develop ambitious plans. Now’s the time to act for nature. Let’s do it together.

Please find the presentations from the WWF Cities, Amsterdam, and Manchester enclosed.

You can watch the recording of the working group here.