The European Horizon 2020 expert group on ‘Nature-Based Solutions and Re-Naturing Cities’ has published a report with recommendations to be taken forward by the European Commission and Member States.With 75% of European citizens living in urban areas, cities are facing great challenges in managing continuous transformation, ensuring the welfare of their inhabitants and safeguarding the natural environment. Several cities in Europe have taken steps to develop innovative approaches for addressing environmental challenges and the impacts of the economic crisis through the use of nature-based solutions.
According to the expert group, we are living in a time of great opportunities for addressing societal challenges, such as increased urbanisation, economic inequalities and climate change, and for ensuring our society is protected from foreseeable future changes.
There is a growing interest and awareness within the business community of the value of managing and maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services, as a business opportunity and as an essential means to reduce economic risks by ensuring the continued supply of vital resources.
Although significant questions and knowledge gaps remain, Europe has extensive pools of knowledge, scientific expertise, skills and technological capability relevant to nature-based solutions. Local examples abound. What is needed is to enhance the evidence-base and rationale and to implement nature-based solutions at a greater speed and a wider scale.
The expert group recommends seven areas for nature-based solutions for R&I actions to be taken forward by the European Commission and Member States: urban regeneration, well-being in urban areas, coastal resilience, watershed management and ecosystem restoration, sustainability of the use of matter and energy, enhancing the insurance value of ecosystems, carbon sequestration.
Nature-based solutions harness the power and sophistication of nature to turn environmental, social and economic challenges into innovation opportunities. They can address a variety of societal challenges in sustainable ways, with the potential to contribute to green growth, ‘future-proofing’ society, fostering citizen well-being, providing business opportunities and positioning Europe as a leader in world markets.
Nature-based solutions are actions which are inspired by, supported by or copied from nature. They have tremendous potential to be energy and resource-efficient and resilient to change, but to be successful they must be adapted to local conditions.
Many nature-based solutions result in multiple co-benefits for health, the economy, society and the environment, and thus they can represent more efficient and cost-effective solutions than more traditional approaches.
An EU Research & Innovation (R&I) agenda on nature-based solutions will enable Europe to become a world leader both in R&I and in the growing market for nature-based solutions. For this, the evidence base for the effectiveness of nature-based solutions needs to be developed and then used to implement solutions. Both need to be done in conjunction with stakeholders.
The potential for transferability and upscaling of solutions also requires further investigation. There is also a need to develop a systemic approach that combines technical, business, finance, governance, regulatory and social innovation.
Four principal goals have been identified that can be addressed by nature-based solutions:
• Enhancing sustainable urbanisation through nature-based solutions can stimulate economic growth as well as improving the environment, making cities more attractive, and enhancing human well-being.
• Restoring degraded ecosystems using nature-based solutions can improve the resilience of ecosystems, enabling them to deliver vital ecosystem services and also to meet other societal challenges.
• Developing climate change adaptation and mitigation using nature-based solutions can provide more resilient responses and enhance the storage of carbon.
• Improving risk management and resilience using nature-based solutions can lead to greater benefits than conventional methods and offer synergies in reducing multiple risks.
Based on the four goals, seven nature-based solutions for R&I actions are recommended to be taken forward by the European Commission and Member States:
• Urban regeneration through nature-based solutions
• Nature-based solutions for improving well-being in urban areas
• Establishing nature-based solutions for coastal resilience
• Multi-functional nature-based watershed management and ecosystem restoration
• Nature-based solutions for increasing the sustainability of the use of matter and energy
• Nature-based solutions for enhancing the insurance value of ecosystems
• Increasing carbon sequestration through nature-based solutions.