Nature conservation, as a general principle, was born in Europe. However, nature-based solutions emerge globally as a global answer to some of our most pressing challenges. This applies in particular when it comes to dealing with the impacts of climate change.
It is my pleasure to join this side event on “Nature-based solutions for a climate-resilient Europe” as Mayor of Bonn, First Vice President of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and Co-Patron of the ICLEI Resilient Cities Congress 2018.
Bonn is a European city active in conservation and restoration, benefitting from nature in innumerable ways on every single day. Nature-based solutions offer us great potential to address key challenges for sustainable urban development and urban regeneration. At the same time, they support climate adaptation, the urban environment, human health and the quality of life.
The economic benefits of nature-based solutions surface increasingly – such as the reduction of health-related costs associated to diseases caused by pollution or extreme weather conditions. The World Health Organization is doing research on this interlinkage – conducted by the European Center for Environment and Health in Bonn.
Finding the right balance between nature, climate, soil and human well-being also constitutes a huge part of the work of UN Bonn, shaping sustainability from here with 19 UN entities and wide support from a broad range of other organizations throughout all sectors.
Whilst urban greening is a traditional key feature of urban development, urban planning and infrastructure development has favored conventional constructions so far, even if less resilient and sustainable. A more holistic approach would integrate innovative nature-based solutions in all urban development projects and infrastructure projects as far as technically possible and economically feasible.
Cities learn by peer examples! Thankfully, the European Union supports piloting nature-based solutions in the Horizon 2020 programmes. Bonn is part of a project, researching nature-based solutions in climate resilience. It is a pity that a small number of projects can actually be financed by H2020 – a loss of municipal excellence!
Cities, regions and their partners have invested capacity, time and money in submissions. While Bonn is restoring one stream now, some rejected projects, with the EU Commission’s support and promotion, could unfold great potential. Why not label high-quality concepts going beyond horizon 2020 thresholds and recommend them for support through the European Investment Banks Nature Capital Finance Facility or alike?
Mainstreaming nature-based solutions needs a coherent and solid planning and management framework.
I count on the European Union and its member states to find appropriate ways to implement UN SDG 11 and to encourage cities to embark on integrated management and planning including green infrastructure and biodiversity plans by 2020. This can be stimulated through specific incentives (preferably by respective funding programmes).
In the medium term, international and European standards (as part of the ISO series for ‘Sustainable Development in Cities and Communities) could also be laid down for nature-based solutions, as well as national sustainable urbanization programmes.
Mainstreaming NBS needs consistent and targeted financing. The EU Cohesion Policy is one of the key policies driving urban development and regeneration in all member states. However, whilst the objectives include biodiversity, not many national programmes actually target it. Consequently, only few projects relate to biodiversity and ecosystem services or implement green infrastructures.
Climate could well serve the EU as a role model to include a target on nature-based solutions in its funding programmes, along with the respective indicators in monitoring and evaluation schemes.
On the other hand, there is a need for “NBS-literacy”!
Responsible bodies for structural funds at national level as well as applicants at local and regional level should be encouraged to fully understand the relevance of nature-based solutions for future urban and regional development by the EU Commission.
Let me take you from EU policies back to concrete action in Bonn and to nature-based solutions tackling the impacts of climate change – to streambeds, retention areas protecting us from flood damage, green corridors and unsealed, healthy soils. We have achieved a lot in Bonn. And we are privileged to live in a green city, offering a potential not yet fully explored! This potential leaves me very optimistic for us. Thank you!