International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on 22 May.
This year’s theme “From Agreement to Action: bring back biodiversity” refers to the landmark agreement, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), that was adopted in Montréal, Canada, in December 2022. Cities across the world are already taking action to contribute to these 2030 targets.
The landmark decision (Decision 15/4) calls for urgent and transformative action by governments, specifically mentioning subnational and local authorities, and all of society, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Adopted by more than 180 member states of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Framework guides biodiversity policy through four overarching goals to be achieved by 2050, and a set of 23 targets to be reached by 2030, to achieve a vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.
Cities are the forefront of halting biodiversity loss
Biodiversity is often associated with rural landscapes, when in fact urban areas are home to a myriad of ecosystems and natural wealth, harboring rich biodiversity. The percentage of the world’s population living in cities is expected to rise from 55% to 80% by 2050, and 40 % of strictly protected areas are expected to lie within 50 km of a city by 2030.
While urban areas contribute to biodiversity loss, they also have the opportunity to address the problem. Cities are already demonstrating that taking action for nature can generate significant benefits with respect to increasing…
climate change adaptation,
and improving the health and wellbeing of city dwellers.
The GBF, and Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2023–2030) adopted at COP15 under Decision 15/12, serve as the guideline towards achieving transformative change, but it is up to each city to reprioritize action for nature in order to become engines for effective change. In this article we showcase some of the innovative actions for nature being taken by ICLEI members in contributing towards the global 2030 targets,
What are cities doing to contribute to the 2030 targets?
Mangrove restoration in Municipality Del Carmen, Philippines
The Municipality of Del Carmen, located on Siargao island, Del Carmen once suffered from illegal large-scale mangrove-cutting. In 2012, Del Carmen had 4 269 ha of mangrove cover, as of 2018 – it has reached a total mangrove area of 4 871 hectares, and the area now has one of the largest contiguous mangrove forests in the country. Through the development of a participatory and science-based forest management plan, Del Carmen not only saved its mangrove ecosystem but also experienced a 200% catch increase for near-shore fishers and reduced poverty incidence by 32%, among other co-benefits. The mangrove forest also protects the area’s resilience against typhoons.
The Government of the Philippines declared the Municipality of Del Carmen’s mangrove forest as a wetland of international importance on 2 February during the 2023 World Wetlands Day (WWD). This recognition is expected to pave the way for the Del Carmen mangrove forest’s formal inclusion into the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Forest management in Río Blanco reserve, Manizales, Colombia
The Rio Blanco Protective Forest Reserve is located in the vicinity of the city of Manizales, on the western slopes of the central Andes Mountains in Colombia. The reserve protects the increasingly scarce cloud forest ecosystem, which is the refuge of numerous endemic, vulnerable, and endangered species. Another of its key functions is protecting the Rio Blanco basin that supplies the municipal aqueduct, representing 35% of the total supply of the water to the city of Manizales. Landslides cause considerable damage in the Colombian Andes, but restoring forests is 16 times more cost-effective than repairing damaged infrastructure. Manizales considers forests as a cost-effective landslide prevention system, and in 2022, additional land was added to the reserve and 25 000 indigenous trees were planted in the reserve. This will contribute to the reduction of erosion processes, soil recovery and creation of biodiversity corridors.
Circular economy in Accra, Ghana
Accra is in the early stages of exploring the circular economy, and has the opportunity to frame a circular development approach that tackles the city’s pressing solid waste management challenges. The circular economy opportunity for Accra includes embedding and continuing traditional and indigenous practices which reduce material use and extend product life-cycles, such as wrapping take-away meals with leaves. Accra is involved as a Circle City Scan Tool pilot city, where priority intervention areas are identified. Trade, transport, food service, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries have been identified as sectors of opportunity, with support from ICLEI experts. The key strategies that have been identified are valorising waste through energy recovery and promoting industry collaboration and industrial symbiosis.
The city of Kochi in India is looking at restoring the city’s canals using nature-based solutions. Through a recent project, a feasibility study on restoration of one canal through green-grey infrastructure has been carried out. In the past, the canals were used for transportation supporting livelihoods, and for flood control. Due to pollution, solid waste dumping, unplanned infrastructure development and challenges related to population pressure, the canals are now vulnerable to floods. There is an urgent need to restore and rejuvenate the canals to build climate resilience in the city. The report concentrates on six aspects: civil work, sewage treatment, waste management, green infrastructure and others, and financial stability, and describes detailed actions that need to be taken up under each of them
Compiled by ICLEI South Asia, Bechtel.org and Swiss Re, with funding from Swiss Re Foundation, the report presents a pilot model, focussing on green-grey infrastructure, for canal restoration which can be replicated in other cities.
Water catchment management plan of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality
As a result of the long-term decline of water sources resulting from land use and land cover change over time, pollution, aging infrastructure, flooding and degrading open spaces, the City of Johannesburg developed a tool that integrates land use, river health and stormwater management for Johannesburg’s Jukskei River catchment. The plan used a hydrological model to guide extensive stakeholder engagement. Through this process the City realized the significant opportunity for rainwater harvesting and the necessity to start making the catchment area more “spongy” through nature-based solutions – to improve the replenishment of aquifers but also to reduce flooding.
Ecotourism at Mallorquin wetland in Barranquilla, Colombia
The Mallorquín swamp, or Ciénaga de Mallorquín, is a coastal lagoon and Ramsar wetland of international importance located in Barranquilla, in the Caribbean Sea. It has a very rich ecosystem, housing four of the five types of mangroves considered unique ecosystems, which also protect Barranquilla from hurricanes and flooding, and serve as a habitat for more than 36 species of fish. However, the area has been suffering from pollution resulting from municipal and industrial wastewater discharges and agricultural activities.
Under the leadership of Mayor Jaime Pumarejo, there is a plan to clean the lagoon and create an ecopark where residents of Barranquilla and tourists can enjoy the wetland while making sure nature stays undisturbed. The importance of preserving this type of ecosystem for a city like Barranquilla goes beyond the economic sphere: it contributes to the strengthening of people’s mental, emotional and spiritual health, improves the dynamics of relationship with the environment and the urban environment, encourages community development, inclusion and social integration, and impact the new generations by growing up in environmentally friendly environments.
Improved access to parks in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Montréal adopted the Nature and Sports Plan to protect the city’s natural heritage and boost citizens’ health and quality of life. The Nature and Sports Plan, which has four major components, puts nature at the heart of the city to improve the quality of life and help fight climate change. Its ambitious objectives offer courses of action to shape and protect the city in order to meet the current and future needs of the population. The first component, Green Montréal, includes planting of 500 000 trees between now and 2030, creation of a network of green corridors; and development of Grand parc de Ouest (3 000 ha). The second component, Blue Montréal, includes rehabilitation of wetlands and shorelines in Montréal’s large parks. The third component focuses on Montréal’s Mountain, Mount Royal park, by creating new experiences for visitors while protecting its characteristics. The last component, Active Montréal, encourages the population to adopt an active lifestyle by supporting local sports facilities and events.
The Berlin Urban Nature Pact
Following the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in December 2022 in Montréal, The Berlin Urban Nature Pact is an initiative by a number of cities building on and partnering with the Edinburgh Process. A comprehensive consultation process will be finalized in 2023 to launch the Pact in 2024. Signing cities will lead the transition towards implementation of the SMART targets within the CitiesWithNature Action Platform. This is the next milestone after the Edinburgh Declaration and the Montréal Pledge focussing on the implementation of the GBF and the renewed Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2021-2030).
Sado City, Japan
Sado City was the first city in Japan to declare Nature Positive on 23 October 2022. Sado City has been taking action on biodiversity conservation, including conservation of the crested ibis, which became extinct in the wild in 1981. A programme of reintroduction was established and since 2008, 569 crested ibis have been successfully reintroduced into the wild. With the aim of becoming nature positive, Sado City will conduct the following activities to promote investment in nature and a circular economy, as well as to promote becoming a zero-carbon island. Sado City will expand the protected areas and sites contributing to biodiversity conservation outside of protected areas, gain a better understanding of what resources cause biodiversity loss in other regions, as well as make progress on conserving the natural environment and biodiversity, leading to the creation of new industries.
All cities and regions are invited to join CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature, and capture their commitments to take concrete action for biodiversity on the Action Platform, thereby becoming part of the global community of subnational and local governments taking and reporting on actions for biodiversity and supporting their national governments in implementing the GBF and national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs). This will also facilitate easier coordination between national, subnational and local governments in gathering and using data for the National Reports under the CBD. And it will serve, in turn, to inspire other subnational and local governments to follow their lead, thereby amplifying and scaling out actions for biodiversity.