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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

Nature supports Europe’s sustainable cities

Nature offers many benefits to support Europe’s urban agenda and supports the move of many cities to become more sustainable and innovative. Evidence of such ‘nature-based solutions’ was presented at an EU conference. The conference, as part of the Dutch EU Presidency, focused on how evidence supports policy for sustainable cities and what tools are available to help cities in this process. This was kicked off by a short panel interview with representatives of the Province of Utrecht, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, and the Netherlands Ministry for Infrastructure and Environment and their views on nature-based solutions.

Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital at the European Commission DG Environment, presented an overview of the European policy context, including the urban agenda, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, Green infrastructure strategy and funding possibilities for nature-based solutions in cities. This was complemented by Marco Fritz, Policy Officer at EC DG Research & Innovation, who shared the results of a recent survey among EU citizens, showing that 60% of citizens prefer nature-based solutions over technical ones.

Examples were presented from experiences in about ten European cities, including a presentation by Peter Mederly on the OpenNESS case study in Trnava, Slovak Republic. Most of the examples also feature in a new report that was launched during the conference, referred to as the MAES urban pilot, or in full ‘Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services: Urban ecosystems’. The report, produced by the European Commission with the European Environment Agency, volunteering EU Member States and cities, and stakeholders, presents guidance for mapping urban ecosystems and includes an indicator framework to assess the condition of urban ecosystems and the services they provide.

During breakout sessions participants discussed topics such as how to deal with governance barriers in an urban context, mapping and decision support tools (with an OpenNESS session by Alterra on the QuickScan tool), the link between green infrastructure and health, circular economy, and innovative governance and finance.

In many presentations as well as in the day’s conclusions Oppla was referred to as a key platform to share the many experiences that were presented, as well as the tools that are available to support cities in their efforts to use nature-based solutions instead of technical ones.

The one-day conference, held in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and attended by some 150 participants, was closed with a short ceremony in which a number of stakeholders from cities, business, research, and government, signed a City Deal to support their commitment to better value green and blue in cities.