Using nature to make resilient cities in the face of a changing climate
Earthwatch Europe created the Climate-Proof Cities programme to study how urban green spaces and waterbodies can help cities adapt to climate change.
One important part of the solution is to incorporate nature into our cities. These ‘nature-based solutions’ can help protect cities from the consequences of the climate crisis. They also provide other powerful benefits such as promoting biodiversity, storing carbon, and improving human health.
Our Climate-Proof Cities programme consists of research projects studying nature-based solutions in 17 major cities around the world. We bring together researchers and policymakers to identify the impact that nature-based solutions can have on cities.
Nature-based solutions are methods that use nature (or mimic natural processes) for the benefit of people and their environment. They have huge potential to help cities become more resilient to climate change, and benefit people’s health and the economy.
Nature-based solutions are focused on six key areas:
Urban trees – found in parks, gardens, and along streets, trees can help to regulate urban temperatures, reduce flood risk, and clean the air
Parks and green spaces – natural or planted green spaces are used for recreation and exercise, as well as being rich habitats for wildlife
Green buildings – walls and roofs covered with vegetation act like sound and heat insulation for buildings, and absorb rainwater, so reducing flood risk
Riverbank vegetation – plants along riverbanks trap soil and sediment, improving water quality and reducing flood damage by slowing the flow of water
Wetland and bioswales – natural wetlands and man-made bioswales (or ‘rain gardens’) help to purify water and reduce flooding
Lakes and ponds – natural or artificial waterbodies in cities can hold water for irrigation or drinking, and support a wide range of wildlife.
Our research projects around the world are studying how the placement and management of these nature-based solutions affect the benefits they provide to cities and people.
The Climate-Proof Cities programme was originally delivered through our partnership with HSBC . The programme is now in its second year, has already achieved the following (as at August 2019).
data points have been collected by citizen scientists for the research projects in 17 cities
HSBC citizen scientists have been trained and contributed data to the research
of participants found contributing to the research a useful experience
We are currently developing further research opportunities in this area, with a focus on building multi-stakeholder partnerships between corporations, local government, citizens and researchers.
We aim to inform an integrated approach to city planning and management, building an understanding of the interdependencies between decisions on green and grey infrastructure, social cohesion and well-being, and citizen participation and responsibility.
The key priority issues that we are looking at include flood management, thermal comfort, and air quality, as well as the continued development of sustainable finance to support nature-based solutions.
Images: John Hunt, Jay Ortiz, iStock/bingfengwu, iStock Nicolas McComber, Francisco Anzola