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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

Nature-based solutions, circular economy and smart cities: how OpenNESS supports their ultimate aims

The emerging ideas of nature-based solutions, circular economy and smart cities help us set targets for reaching societal prosperity and sustainable development in the long run. The three ideas stem from and make use of the concepts of ecosystem services and natural capital, which reflect the elements and processes necessary for human well-being. For these ideas to promote their ultimate aims, three operational actions are needed: measurement, evaluation, and demonstration.

OpenNESS develops tools and methods to operationalize the concepts of ecosystem services and natural capital

Firstly, we need commonly agreed criteria for measuring the various steps in the implementation of nature-based solutions, circular economy and smart cities. To observe how the ideas develop over time, we need indicators of their implementation and outcome. Transparent indicators reveal trends and allow bench-marking different sectors, areas and time periods.

The OpenNESS brief no. 02 discusses what is needed for safeguarding ecosystem services in nature-based solutions

Secondly, we need to assess the impacts of these ideas on the prosperity and sustainability of our societies, taking into account social, environmental and economic considerations. There are several methods available. Policy evaluation aims to show how well the targets have been reached, but also to identify indirect and unexpected impacts of various actions. Life-cycle assessment elucidates how nature-based solutions, circular economy and smart cities in one place are connected to wider processes in both time and space, thus providing a holistic picture of the impacts.

OpenNESS demonstrates which sectoral policies are the key drivers of change for ecosystem services

Thirdly, it is important to show that nature-based solutions, circular economy and smart cities can be operationalized in practice and that they increase the prosperity and sustainability of societies. The robustness of the results can be verified only in the long run, which calls for long-term place-based demonstration areas. The long-term socio-ecological platforms (LTSER) already based in various parts of Europe and outside provide a means for such demonstrations. These platforms are under continuous development, to ensure good coverage of approaches and contexts, but they already offer opportunities and infrastructure for testing and demonstrating ideas. The platforms located in cities, municipalities and in the wider countryside can be used to test and demonstrate the sustainability of nature-based solutions, circular economy and smart cities.

OpenNESS develops tools to operationalize ecosystem services in 26 place-based demonstration areas. Several of these case studies are also LTSER-platforms or related LTER-sites.