Greening our urban tapestry: Collaboration and solutions for nature and biodiversity

Cities and regions are in the frontlines of the escalating global triple planetary crisis. The global and national media post daily news items chronicling the loss of life and livelihoods, destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems, damage to infrastructure and essential services. The cause of these losses and destruction ranges from extreme weather events to the collapse of ecosystems, unsustainable consumption, production and development pressures, as well as social inequalities. Despite the challenges of navigating the complex and interconnected drivers of global warming, biodiversity loss, and pollution, cities and regions are poised to take a leading role in safeguarding nature at the local and landscape scale.  They have a pivotal role to play in the protection and restoration of ecosystems worldwide, benefiting both people and the planet.

As centers of human activity and innovation cities have a direct impact on ecosystems. They provide unique opportunities to restore and conserve biodiversity, and to contribute to ecological connectivity in urban areas and beyond. Through sustainable urban planning, green and blue infrastructure development, and nature-based solutions, cities can create habitats for diverse species, improve air and water quality, and enhance the overall well-being of their residents. Cities are important drivers of economic growth and cultural diversity and also in the front lines of environmental challenges.

To address these challenges UNEP launched “Generation Restoration: Catalyzing a nature-based transformation in finance, jobs and cities” to be implemented over a three-year period (2023-2025) to implement a package of measures that address selected political, technical, financial challenges to promote ecosystem restoration at scale, particularly in urban areas. 25 cities from around the world are participating in Generation Restoration, some of them shared their stories and experiences at the ICLEI World Congress in the session “Greening our Urban Tapestry: Collaboration and Solutions for Nature and Biodiversity”. The session also heard from other cities around the world such as Cali, Seongnam, Del Carmen and Austin.

In her keynote address Gulnara Roll, Head of the Cities Unit, at the Climate Change Division in UNEP highlighted the connection between cities and the triple planetary crisis and how urban nature offers cost-effective solutions to reduce climate impacts and improve urban life. She also emphasized that UNEP through Generation Restoration is providing cities with access to information, technical assistance, peer to peer exchange, capacity building, direct financing, and exemplary case studies. UNEP with ICLEI and other partners are collaborating to enhance multilevel action and explore innovative financing mechanisms for nature-based solutions.

Deputy Mayor Laurence Lavigne from Montreal, Canada, reflected on the progress made since COP15 in her city- She stressed the importance of forums such as the Summit of Subnational Governments and Cities where cities have a voice and a space to share best practices and learn from one another, as they all struggle with the same challenges and learning from one another is important.

Mauricio Mira, Head of the Environment Department in Cali, Colombia, mentioned how his city is preparing to host COP16 by showcasing the social and economic benefits of nature. The city has the expectation of having a transformative dialogue in making peace with nature and people, while also making the argument for investing in nature.

Atha Phillips, Senior Policy Strategist from Austin, USA said that her city had attended COP15 and brought back the global targets from Montreal by including them in a resolution. This has also led them to endorse the Berlin Urban Nature Pact which will be launched at COP 16. She encouraged participants to come forward and join when it is unveiled in Colombia.”

The second panel discussed innovative tools and solutions for a systemic change in combating biodiversity loss and serve as inspiration to other cities. Mayor Alfredo Coro from Del Carmen, Philippines, who also leads ICLEI’s Portfolio on Biodiversity, Water, and One Health, explained how he used environmental conservation to transform his city from one where people were so poor that citizens tried to sell organs and children were eating sand to the #1 island for tourism in the world.

Cape Town and Manaus shared their stories as Generation Restoration Cities, which demonstrated that cities are living proof that with strategic financial investment, meticulous planning, and robust collaboration, restoring nature within urban landscapes is not only feasible, but can elevate the quality of life, mental wellbeing and create urban environments that reduce biodiversity loss.

Cities and regions can act upon the opportunities and create systemic change, to pave the way for a sustainable future where people and nature coexist in harmony at the urban and landscape scale. In this light, ICLEI proudly announced the 8th Global Biodiversity Summit of Local and Subnational Governments Summit taking place from the 25-27 of October in Cali and displayed the Summit logo for the first time. It resembles the Inírida flower while including urban elements and colors that promote green spaces for human wellbeing.

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