19 June 2018 • 08:30 – 13:00
Palais des congrès de Montréal, Room 515
Urban Nature 2018 brought together local governments, representatives of academia and development institutions to discuss nature-based solutions for cities.
BACKGROUND ON THE URBAN NATURE FORUM
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Every three years, ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) holds its World Congress to showcase how local and regional governments across the ICLEI network are advancing sustainable urban development worldwide. The ICLEI World Congress connects local and regional governments with their peers and strategic partners, and provides a platform for discussions that inform and enhance their work.
Since 2006, ICLEI and the ICLEI World Congress host city have convened the Urban Nature Forum (UNF) as an official pre-event to the World Congress. The UNF brings local and regional governments, as well as experts, academics and relevant institutions from around the world, together to create a common space to connect with each other and strengthen relationships; share local stories and lessons learnt; and learn about emerging best practices regarding the value of nature and mainstreaming nature into all aspects of urban life.
Seventy-five delegates from 11 countries attended and participated in the first UNF, held in 2006 in Cape Town, South Africa. Since then, the UNF has grown from strength to strength, with the latest event including over 200 participants from 45 countries globally.
OBJECTIVES OF URBAN NATURE 2018
In this rapidly changing world, local and regional governments are under increasing pressure to meet the infrastructure, water and land demands of a rapidly growing global population, placing further pressure on the finite natural resources that we all depend on. There is rising recognition that whilst cities may displace nature as they expand, they also depend on nature for supporting human livelihoods and ensuring good quality of life. Cities therefore need to re-introduce, restore and enhance their natural resources in order to benefit from nature.
There is also a greater understanding that nature can provide solutions to complex challenges associated with rapid urbanization and the impacts of climate change. The shift in focus on finding solutions in nature, recognizes the complexity of socio-ecological systems and the fact that they are interconnected, dynamic and adaptable. Increasingly practitioners and policy makers are turning to ‘nature-based solutions’ (NbS) to solve developmental and societal challenges, whilst strengthening the resilience, quality of life and well-being of urban communities.
With the above in mind, Urban Nature 2018 (UN2018) had three main objectives:
Highlight the growing number of local and regional governments that recognize the value of nature’s benefits.
Provide a platform for local and regional governments, as well as key institutions from the host city in particular, to showcase how they are applying NbS at the local level and share examples of NbS innovations and initiatives in practice.
Bring together local and regional governments and key institutions from the host country and provide an opportunity to connect, as well for knowledge exchange and debate amongst city officials, researchers and other key actors on practical application of NbS in their own city regions.
“Our planet is rapidly urbanizing. More than half of the world’s population already lives in urban areas and the number is expected to only increase. Between 2010 and 2030, the urban population is expected to nearly double, growing by an addition of 1.5 billion people. During the same period, cities are expected to triple in size.”
– Cities and Biodiversity Outlook; Stockholm Resilience Centre
OVERVIEW OF THE PROGRAM
Urban Nature 2018 (UN2018) was held on 19 June 2018, as an official pre-event to the 2018 ICLEI World Congress, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, Canada.
UN2018 was divided into two main sessions, each comprising of two consecutive, interactive panel discussions. These took the form of informal ‘Davos-style’ dialogues, allowing for short statements from the panelists, followed by interactive and dynamic discussion with the audience. Detail on each session is provided below:
Session 1: Montreal, Quebec and Canada perspectives
Session 1, the host city session, allowed the City of Montréal, as well as local institutions and researchers from Montréal and the surrounding Quebec region, to provide a ‘reality check’ on the Canadian understanding of the value of nature and biodiversity for supporting the city and human livelihoods; as well as how Canada is mainstreaming nature and NbS into Canadian urban life.
Session 1 was broken down into two panels. Panel 1 was titled “How important is nature for today’s urban communities and how to increase nature’s protection”. Panel 2 was titled “Which good practices related to green and blue infrastructure have proven successful and which financing, collaborative and other opportunities are worth pursuing?”
“We have heard enough about the world’s problems, now is the time for sharing solutions. These solutions exist in nature. In Quebec already, we have over 350 profitable nature-based solutions projects running which not only protect the environment, but also create jobs, make profits and boost clean economic growth whilst supporting decision makers achieve ambitious targets and policies. Let’s take action today and adapt and adopt nature-based solutions!”
– Victoria Smaniotto, Ecotech Quebec
Session 1 highlighted that nature is increasingly being recognized and valued by various institutions within the City of Montréal as a means to support human livelihoods, as well as human health and sense of wellbeing within the city region; additionally the session highlighted that there is growing momentum to bring nature into the city through various projects such as the ‘Space for Life’ project and the Montréal Urban Greening Project. There is also an increasing shift towards more innovative ‘green technologies’.
Session 2 built upon Session 1 and took the discussion to a global level. Drawing on expert knowledge from around the globe, Session 2 focused on how cities can both scale up and scale out local action. As with Session 1, Session 2 was broken down into two panels. Panel 3 was titled “Scaling up local action through innovative approaches” and focused on how local nature actions could possibly be replicated at a global scale. Panel 4 was titled “Scaling out local action through making connections” and focused on how local actions could be broadened and mainstreamed into other sectors, such as food and health, through innovation connections.
Session 2 highlighted that, while cities are expanding at a rapid rate, there is increasing recognition by cities across the globe that not only is nature valuable in its own right but it also holds the key to addressing complex socio-economic challenges associated with rapid urbanization.
“Biodiversity is essential for human survival. Since more than 50% of the human population live in cities now, we must ensure that biodiversity thrives in cities – for our own good! We do this by applying the 5 C’s, that is:
1) Conserve representatives of all ecosystems in core conservation areas;
2) Connect these conservation areas ecologically;
3) Create or enhance or restore or rehabilitate existing ecosystems;
4) Collect scientific data; and
5) Collaborate and Cooperate with everyone and promote citizen science”
– Dr. Lena Chan, Senior Director (International Biological Conservation Division), National Parks Board, Singapore.
The key discussion points of the session noted that not only can NbS can be mainstreamed into all aspects of urban planning, but that they can be adopted from a variety of difference angles, depending on how each city region or institution chooses to address their own challenges. Examples included undertaking ‘urban greening’; developing ‘urban forests’; developing ‘biophyllic cities’; undertaking ‘urban tinkering’; and replicating successful nature-related projects, such as the ICLEI led Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB): Wetlands SA and INTERACT-Bio projects.
KEY OUTCOMES OF URBAN NATURE 2018
A key outcome of UN2018 was a message of goodwill which was delivered by Dr. Rob McDonald from The Nature Conservancy at the Nature-based Solutions Sub-Plenary on 20 June at the ICLEI World Congress:
“In the 21st century, the period of fastest urban growth in human history, cities need nature, and nature nurtures cities. Biodiversity and ecosystems services are urban commons, essential for the well-being of growing urban populations. The decisions that all levels of governments take have major impacts on biodiversity. Innovative solutions are needed to reconnect people to nature, and people through nature.
The 5th Urban Nature Forum gathered over 200 participants from cities across the world. We shared inspiring, diverse lessons of how nature is incorporated into cities, here in Quebec and globally.
We congratulate ICLEI and Montréal for building on the Urban Nature Forum by mainstreaming nature in the World Congress program and look forward to further stimulating and ‘game changing’ discussions in the sessions ahead.
We, the Urban Nature Forum 2018 participants, call on cities to renew their commitment to being cities WITH nature by raising their ambitions, upscaling and accelerating significant actions towards nature-based development to improve the resilience, health and wellbeing of our growing urban communities.
Later in this Plenary we will call upon all cities large and small to join our new collective CitiesWithNature platform and unite our efforts globally.”
At the end of the Nature-based Solutions Sub-Plenary, the global CitieswithNature Initiative was launched to support cities with taking decisive action to both value and enhance nature within their city regions. For further information on the CitieswithNature Initiative, please refer to the website: http://citieswithnature.org.
Over 200 participants from 45 countries attended Urban Nature 2018, which reflects a 167% increase in attendance and participation in the event since the first Urban Nature Forum was held in 2006 in Cape Town, South Africa (See Annex 2 for the Attendance Register). Additionally, the Urban Nature Forum was the most extensively shared session on social media related to the ICLEI World Congress.
The increase in interest in the Urban Nature Forum reflects the growing recognition of the value of nature in supporting cities, as well as the increased interest in utilizing NbS as a mechanism to address the complex-socio-economic challenges associated with population growth and rapid urbanization.
“The 2018 Urban Nature Forum was both encouraging and inspiring and overall an unforgettable opportunity to learn how natural solutions are being used across the world in a diversity of forms. It was also a crucial opportunity to learn how a more nature-friendly approach to urbanization is being designed to make cities more inclusive, healthier and more resilient.”
– Oliver Hillel, Secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity