Urban nature-based solutions can be key tools for climate adaptation, but critical knowledge gaps still exist
In a new paper out in the journal Nature Sustainability, researchers explore the climate–biodiversity–society (CBS) nexus as it relates to the implementation of nature-based solutions (NbS) in the urban context. The article, Global mapping of urban nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation, looks at 216 urban interventions and 130 cities worldwide.
The analysis focused on the use of NbS for climate change adaptation in relation to the CBS nexus, and found that current practice is limited in how comprehensively it can address many of these intersectional challenges. Their research also found that urban NbS knowledge was biased towards the Global North, which led to an underrepresentation of challenges faced by the Global South.
One of the limits they found to the transformative capacity of NbS in urban environments was the lack of engagement with the private sector. Their results showed that most NbS interventions in cities were implemented and funded by local governments and public bodies. These are entities with often highly constrained budgets and shifting priorities which can result in NbS failing to reach their full ecological and technical potential. However, the researchers note that nature-based interventions are often underutilized tools in reaching socio-economic goals towards urban transformation with major potential for further integration.
The authors also point out a need for increasing knowledge sharing strategies across climates and contexts. While there is already knowledge transfer surrounding large scale projects and developments, there is a distinct lack of information flow regarding projects which address Global South focused NbS strategies. While facing exacerbated socio-economic challenges, urban environments in the Global South are more likely to face severe exposure to climate impacts such as rising temperatures, drought, and coastal hazards. Therefore, the authors call for a more nuanced discussion on information sharing, with a focus on diverse interventions and contexts.
While the article focuses on ways to improve the adoption and implementation of NbS moving forward, they also highlight current bright spots within global practice. In many urban environments, NbS can have a transformative capacity in addressing the challenges of the CBS nexus. They found examples of these urban ‘bright spots’ in the Maldives; Durban, South Africa; São Paulo, Brazil; and Hamburg, Germany.
The paper wraps up with two key recommendations to consider moving forward. The first is that research must focus on filling key knowledge gaps and disparities, such as those that exist between the Global North and Global South. The second is that urban policies must interact with all parts of the CBS nexus in order to capture and address the multiple dimensions of climate vulnerability. Together these efforts could help unlock the full potential and transformative capacity of NbS within the urban environment.
To learn more read the full article; Global mapping of urban nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation in Nature Sustainability.