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Urban greening and re-naturing for urban regeneration, resilience and climate neutrality

Cities are at the forefront of tackling climate change and pollution and managing impacts through mitigation and adaptation measures. However, while in the last decade local and regional authorities gained a better understanding of the inter-related climate challenges and urgencies of their territories, less has been undertaken to effectively implement and assess climate mitigation and adaptation specific approaches and, in consequence, to adopt them into the local urban/regional policies, strategies and planning documentations, such as municipal/regional master planning, Urban Agendas, Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMPs), Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP), Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP), smart specialisation strategies etc.

To meet the objectives of the European Green Deal, the Paris and Glasgow agreement and the UN (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals, cities in close cooperation with their surrounding region, should engage in decisive actions to tackle the climate change, biodiversity and pollution imperatives and enhance their climate resilience.

It is widely acknowledged[[ Authoritative research indicates that nature-based solutions can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2 °C (IPBES (2019): Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).]] that urban “greening” and renaturing approaches and solutions, if properly designed and maintained, can address simultaneously climate change mitigation and adaptation challenges by reducing GHG emissions and atmospheric concentrations, energy demands for e.g. mobility, wastewater treatment, heating and cooling. They can also contribute to significant regeneration and upgrading of built environment whilst delivering multiple co-benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation and enhancement, cleaner air, water and soil, noise reduction, flood risks mitigation, public health and well-being.

The objective of this topic is to explore and demonstrate how to operationalize collaborative climate mitigation and adaptation urban planning approaches deploying “greening” and renaturing solutions for regeneration, re-purposing, rehabilitation and pollution abatement purposes. The co-created plans should be in line with the guiding principles of the European Green Deal and the New European Bauhaus initiative.

To this end, it invites for demonstration actions in at least four ‘lead’ cities accompanied by at least four ‘replicator’ cities, representing good geographical, climate and socio-economic diversity across Europe and situated each in a different Member State or Associated Country, where existent urban structure and fabric allow rehabilitation, regeneration, re-purposing or (re)conversion of areas such as large scale social housing districts, deprived districts and neighbourhoods, neglected or abandoned areas and brownfields, derelict industrial sites or dysfunctional urban places through greening and renaturing.

Actions are expected to:

  • Set-up in each participating city collaborative platforms (such as living labs) depicting multi-level, and multi-disciplinary governance structures and engaging local authorities, citizens, stakeholders and relevant actors[[Such as infrastructure providers, knowledge institutions, planners, cultural and creative organizations, energy, mobility and climate agencies.]] and expertise[[ Such as planning, design, ICT sector, social sciences and humanities, behavioural and citizens sciences, gender, ecology etc.]] for the co-design, testing and demonstration of co-created urban rehabilitation, regeneration, re-purposing or (re)conversion plans deploying greening and re-naturing approaches to foster more climate neutral, resilient, liveable, sustainable and functional cities with thriving nature, communities and economic activities;
  • Ensure that the regional dimension concerning climate adaptation is properly accounted for through the continuous and seamless involvement of competent regional authorities responsible for the design and implementation of the regional climate mitigation and adaptation measures to ensure cross-scalar (city/region) compatibility and coherence of the urban/regional climate mitigation and adaptation plans.

Actions should also foresee assessment, quantitative and qualitative, ex-ante and ex-post, of the impact of combining and integrating different greening and re-naturing interventions and actions both at local and at regional level based on robust monitoring schemes and using, as appropriate, existing methodologies and indicators.

The ‘lead’ demonstration cities must, further to the development of the above mentioned plans, also foresee actual implementation of the co-created interventions during the life of the project. To this end, concrete implementation actions and associated costs should be described under a dedicated Work Package or a task.

The replicator/follower cities, under the proactive guidance and mentoring of the lead cities, should develop their co-created plans, measures and interventions with not obligation for their actual implementation during the life of the project.

To support the integrated planning process and facilitate involvement of citizens in the decision-making process, actions should make effective use of digital tools (e.g. digital twins) integrating cross-domain static, real time and historic data from observations, modelling and simulation whilst making use of open standards and technical specifications.

Actions should engage in clustering activities with other like-minded projects funded under this topic, other relevant projects[[ Such as the CSA project resulting from the call “HORIZON-CL6-2022-BIODIV-01-03: Network for nature: multi-stakeholder dialogue platform to promote nature-based solutions” and Horizon Europe relevant projects on nature-based solutions in cities under the call “HORIZON-CL6-2023-BIODIV:Stopping biodiversity loss and enhancing ecosystem services in urban and peri-urban areas.]] and projects supported under the Climate-neutral and smart cities and Climate Adaption Missions to promote synergies and complementarities.

Although concrete actions for such activities would only be identified in an early stage in the projects’ lifetime, appropriate provisions and resources enabling their implementation should be put aside at the proposal level in a clearly identifiable work package. Furthermore, actions should engage in ambitious outreach, communication, dissemination and training activities to foster replication, upscaling and up-taking of the projects’ outputs beyond the projects consortia.

To maximise impacts, in carrying out these activities, actions are strongly recommended to work in coordination and complementarity with the ‘Climate-neutral and smart cities’ and the (soon to be established) ‘Climate Adaptation’ Mission Platforms. Opportunities for collaboration and synergies should also be explored and, as appropriate, pursued with other relevant initiatives, such as the European partnership on Driving Urban Transitions for a sustainable future (DUT), the upcoming European Urban Initiative of Cohesion Policy, the Urban Agenda for the EU[[ More particularly, the Partnership for sustainable land use and nature-based solutions, and the resources the Partnership developed, on Sustainable Land Use | Futurium (europa.eu) as well as the upcoming Partnership on Greening of Cities, provided that the outcome of the ex-ante assessment concerning the plans to set up this Partnership will be positive.]] , the CSA project selected from the call HORIZON-MISS-2021-CIT-01-02, the Covenant of Mayors, the CIVITAS initiative, the Living-in.EU initiative and the New European Bauhaus Community and NEBLab.