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Nature-based solutions in cities

Climate-resilient infrastructure can create 59 million jobs and can mitigate growing risks from extreme weather
Side view of a modern staircase in Manchester with a living plant background

Cities contribute 80% to global GDP – but they also account for 75% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Integrating nature-positive solutions can help protect cities from growing risks associated with extreme weather while driving sustainable economic growth.

Cities and nature in harmony

In collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute and Government of Colombia, the World Economic Forum’s BiodiverCities by 2030 Initiative published a report addressing the urgency of cities’ untenable relationship with nature.

The Initiative’s goal is to reverse this existential global threat and move forward with a plan that will result in cities and nature co-existing in harmony by the end of the decade.

The report is a call for multi-stakeholder action to integrate nature as infrastructure into the built environment.

‘Cities don’t need to be concrete jungles in conflict with nature in and outside their boundaries. They should be places where all people and nature co-exist and thrive together. Nature-based solutions offer wider benefits than traditional engineered ‘grey’ solutions – such as improving resilience, increasing citizens health and wellbeing and moving cities to net zero. Using powerful new digital mapping tools to help us understand cities as complex systems, we are increasingly adopting nature-based solutions in our projects – this needs to be accelerated on a global scale.’

JO DA SILVA
Arup Global Sustainable Development Leader

Jobs and wellbeing

In making the economic case for BiodiverCities, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for infrastructure and land-sparing are found to be cost-effective ways for cities to innovate and meet current challenges.

Spending $583 billion on NbS for infrastructure and on interventions that release land to nature could create more than 59 million jobs by 2030, including 21 million livelihood-enhancing jobs dedicated to restoring and protecting natural ecosystems.

‘In the conventional paradigm, urban development and environmental health are like oil and water.

‘This report shows that this does not have to be the case. Nature can be the backbone of urban development. By recognising cities as living systems, we can support conditions for the health of people, planet and economy in urban areas.’

AKANKSHA KHATRI
Head of Nature and Biodiversity, World Economic Forum

Unlocking nature’s benefits

The report finds that by incentivising investments in natural capital, cities can unlock the benefits of nature.

Nature-based Solutions are on average 50% more cost-effective than man-made alternatives and deliver 28% more added value.

In turn, this capitalisation instils and nurtures nature-positive values and fosters bio-inspired innovations that will ultimately optimise economic competitiveness and prosperity.

‘As cities think about building for the post-pandemic future, they have a priority to provide their citizens with a more equitable and prosperous quality of life by protecting their natural resources.

‘In this report, we offer actionable solutions to heal the relationship between cities and nature. We need all stakeholders to invest in urban nature.’

MAURICIO RODAS
Co-chair of the Global Commission on BiodiverCities by 2030 and former mayor of Quito, Ecuador

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