Improving cities with nature

Introducing the INTERACT-Bio project

By Kobie Brand, Director: ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center

INTERACT-Bio is about working together to mainstream biodiversity and associated nature-based solutions into the way we plan and build the cities of the Global South. This ambitious new project enables ICLEI to work directly with nine biodiverse city-regions, their national governments and other stakeholders across three countries.

From Brazil to India to Tanzania, the Regional Offices of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, supported by our Cities Biodiversity Center and World Secretariat, have partnered with INTERACT-Bio project cities in these three countries to enable multi-level and cross-disciplinary local action over the next four years. This action will promote, enable and entrench nature as an essential component of the future of these cities and the regions surrounding them.

In a world which is urbanizing faster than ever before, nature is literally bulldozed further and further to the periphery – often resulting in irreversible loss to humankind and the planet. This project will not only focus on placing nature at the center of urban planning and development, but will allow for new and strengthened institutions, while also adding much needed additional technical capacity to the participating city-regions.

Building on over 25 years of hands-on work in support of sustainable development at the local level, ICLEI will be taking the next step with these nine frontrunner city-regions towards an urban life which is in harmony with nature.  INTERACT-Bio will draw on, but also contribute significantly to, the emerging body of knowledge and practice on mainstreaming nature in our fast-growing urban landscapes.

Over the years ICLEI’s pioneering cities – such as those involved in the Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) Program – have shown in so many rich and diverse ways that building a thriving city is in fact best achieved by letting nature in, by making nature an essential part of our urban spaces, structures and services.

Nature provides us with wide ranging benefits and essential services such as water purification, flood control, climate regulation, food security and clean air. In addition, a growing body of evidence points not only to the direct link between nature and the physical health of people living in cities, but also to the impact it has on our mental, spiritual and community well-being.

In recognizing this, many nations have come together over the last decade under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to voice their support for localized nature-based solutions and commit to consecutive global agreements that prioritize, promote and enable subnational and local action on biodiversity.

INTERACT-Bio comes at the right time – just as we prepare to launch new global guidelines with the Secretariat of the CBD that will enable nations to mainstream and report city contributions and actions into their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. This project will effectively demonstrate how this can be done in three developing countries.

Brazil, India and Tanzania each have globally unique biodiversity, but complex development challenges are widely manifested in their fast-growing cities and surrounding regions. Importantly, the project is designed with a landscape-based approach in mind. Instead of being limited to the cadastral – or administrative – boundaries of the cities, the project will include the surrounding regions upon which these cities depend for essential nature-based services. This holistic approach will enable the project cities to rethink and reshape their current urban landscapes and development plans with nature.

This project is specifically designed to be implemented locally in the selected nine city-regions, allowing for local contextualization, ownership and applicability. It aims to strengthen vertical integration between levels of government and horizontal alignment at the city and regional levels across different departments and functional management areas. More specifically, it will build local understanding, capacity and leadership to integrate nature into city development plans and unlock local socio-economic and service-related opportunities associated with well-functioning natural assets. Local sustainable and profitable investment options associated with urban natural assets will be identified, and further developed, with prioritized opportunities piloted in selected city-regions.

Besides the numerous local benefits that the project will provide, one of several global legacies INTERACT-Bio will deliver is a new global Cities Engagement Platform, to be designed in collaboration with the project cities. This platform will serve as a registry for cities to publicly share and report progress on their commitments to mainstreaming biodiversity and nature-based solutions. It will complement ICLEI’s carbonn Climate Registry through which over 750 cities already report their climate mitigation and adaptation commitments and actions.

INTERACT-Bio project cities: Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kochi, Kerala, India
From left: Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kochi, Kerala, India.

 

As we cannot manage that which we cannot measure, it is increasingly important in our urbanizing world that we better understand and appreciate the value of nature in and around our cities. If we are able to better evaluate and mobilize local contributions derived from nature to our well-being and economies, and to reach global biodiversity targets, including the Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Goals, I have no doubt that many more investors – public and private – will join hands with city leaders to bring nature and its multiple assets back into our cities!

INTERACT-Bio, through its local, national and global impacts, is designed to make a significant contribution to building better, more liveable cities. And as the project gets off the ground, it is wonderful to experience the dedication and enthusiasm of our participating ICLEI teams, our partner, UFZ, and our in-country partners in Brazil, India and Tanzania.

To read more, please visit the project website.

INTERACT-Bio is supported through Germany’s International Climate Initiative and funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

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