HomeBlogUse nature-based solutions in city planning

Use nature-based solutions in city planning

There is a rush amongst cities to sign up for climate pledges and chart out climate action plans – rush is due to fear of being left out rather than concerns about deteriorating environment. But, at the same time, time is short, and crucial just transitions related to urban planning, design, and infrastructure development in cities are overdue. Urban areas account for 70% of global CO2 emissions. With over half of the world’s population living in cities, urban areas contribute significantly to climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Interestingly, there is a push to integrate nature-based solutions in the city climate plans, to deal with several challenges that cities are facing owing to the high population densities and pressure on infrastructure development while balancing the socio-economic requirements of cities with GHG emissions.

They are networks of interconnected nature-based solutions interventions across urban and peri-urban landscapes that support ecosystem functions to provide benefits for people and nature. They involve a continuous process of collaborative, integrated and transformative design, planning and implementation at landscape scale to build resilience, with social and ecological benefits.

No doubt, nature-based solutions offer exciting prospects and are being taken up around the world in urban planning to deliver multiple benefits and to reduce climate risks – for example, to mitigate urban heat islands.

Of course, there are some challenges ahead in mainstreaming the nature-based solutions in cities though of late interest in the subject is on the rise. Building a balanced evidence base capable of assessing their efficacy, in particular within the context of trade-offs and complementarities with more technological-based alternatives (e.g., nature-based solutions replacing or complimenting air conditioning for heat risk reduction), their long-term impacts and ways to design and manage them to avoid potential unintended consequences—for example, gentrification, methane production, or providing habitat for disease vectors – are some of the challenges for which we need to develop convincing answers to ensure that the concept becomes universal. At the same time, there is a need to identify best practices and the processes through which these can be embedded and scaled up while balancing disservices.

Nature-based solutions have to be designed and implemented in a context of rapid urban development and challenges such as informality, a high demand for services and a good quality of urban life, and the scarcity of human capacity, skills, and financial resources to address these challenges.

Further, cocreated outcomes such as the design of a nature-based solution or a new approach to planning and knowledge generation belongs to all engaged parties including researchers, practitioners and the community.

If planned well, cities present unique opportunities to reduce humanity’s environmental impact, and meet human needs more efficiently. In this crucial time what we need is exchange of knowledge and experiences so that everyone could contribute to the cause of fighting global warming and make the earth a wonderful place to live in.

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