Addressing Environmental Challenges and the Effects of the Economic Crisis through Nature-Based Solutions
On 13-14 May 2014 the European Commission - Directorate General for Research and Innovation - organized a two-day conference on "Renaturing Cities: Addressing Environmental Challenges and the Effects of the Economic Crisis through Nature-Based Solutions" under the auspices of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Kurt Vandenberghe - Director of Climate Action and Resource Efficiency - opened the event and pointed out the need to explore innovative tools, strategies and best practices in the field of Nature-Based Solutions in European cities.
The co-organiser of the conference, Prof. Nikos Nikolaidis, Deputy Rector of Technical University of Crete - representing the Hellenic Presidency – presented the project “Re-think Athens: A City Centre for People”. The Re-think Athens project is launching the transformation of the center of Athens in 2016. The project aims to improve the quality of everyday life for the citizens by providing the conditions of environmental upgrade, restitution of the urban environment and improvement of the microclimate by planting trees and prescribing the use of eco-friendly public means of transport which will reduce emissions and will create an inviting environment for both pedestrians and cyclists. These initiatives will help reverse the climate of social and financial decline and restore the many vacant buildings back into activity, revitalizing thus the most central parts of the city.
170 participants attended the conference and a large variety of stakeholders were represented: research institutions, constructor sector, landscape contractors, financial associations, municipalities, chambers of commerce, permanent representations (i.e. Permanent representation of China in Brussels), international organizations (specifically UNEP, UNISDR, UNESCO). Moreover, Commission Services (DG R&I, DG REGIO, DG ENV, DG CLIMA, JRC), and other EU Institutions (the Council Presidency, the European Parliament), as well as the Committee of Regions and the European Environment Agency were also represented within the conference audience.
R&I should provide the evidence and arguments for such nature-based solutions.
There is a need for mapping the existing initiatives on renaturing cities with Nature-Based Solutions at regional, national and European level and show their cost effectiveness, their social added value for human health and wellbeing and also their overall contribution to a more sustainable management of the environment.