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New Strategy for Re-Naturing Cities through Nature-Based Solutions

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - URBAN GreenUP (New Strategy for Re-Naturing Cities through Nature-Based Solutions)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2022-05-31

Over the course of the past decades, many severe environmental problems have arisen due to sprawling urbanisation and climate change. Poor air quality, floods, drought, heatwaves and heat island effect are just some examples. As a consequence, health and societal emergencies have emerged, calling for new radical actions on a global scale. One of these actions is URBAN GreenUP, an EU-funded project aiming to make our cities more sustainable and resilient to climate change by means of the very essence of our own environment: nature.

URBAN GreenUP’s approach is based on the revolutionary concept of Renaturing Urban Planning (RUP). The goal is to develop a methodology integrating city planning and nature. This will be achieved through the design and implementation of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in urban areas.

The project will demonstrate and validate its methodology in the Front-runner cities of Liverpool (the UK), Valladolid (Spain) and Izmir (Turkey). The three cities are implementing more than a hundred different kinds of NBS. Some of these are re-naturing urbanization actions, such as the creation of green cycle lanes, plantation of shade and cooling street trees, all of them contributing to urban carbon sinks. Other interventions will improve the cities’ water management. Examples are sustainable drainage systems, floodable parks, riverbanks restoration and conversion of grey and black surfaces into green ones. A large number of NBS consist of singular green infrastructures, such as noise barriers, green façades and roofs, mobile and floating gardens, garden bio-filters, large urban trees and hedging acting as filters for urban air pollutants. Finally, cities will carry out also non-technical, social interventions such as educational, awareness-raising and engaging activities for citizens. The ultimate goal is to involve citizens in the design and local implementation of NBS.

But large-scale impacts only happen when efforts are global. This is why URBAN GreenUP will deliver a replicable and scalable renaturing methodology. The five Follower cities of Mantova (Italy), Ludwigsburg (Germany), Chengdu (China), QuyNhon (Vietnam) and Medellin (Colombia) will make this possible by tuning their own RUP on the experience gathered by Front-runners. But URBAN GreenUP is going even beyond that and work is underway to create a worldwide network of cities interested in adopting the project’s RUP strategy.

The replicability of URBAN GreenUP’s approach will also boost the creation of a procedure for wide NBS Exploitation and Market deployment, hence leading to an NBS, EU-driven global market. To this aim, the project is working on the definition of NBS business models and financial formulas, which will contribute to the NBS market creation.

The project will share its most relevant results and legacy through a final event and a handbook of lessons learnt. Both final activities will be fed by the global activities of the project.
Activities carried out by URBAN GreenUP project can be grouped as follows:

Development of the Re-naturing methodology. The project partners continue to work on the development of a methodology for Renaturing urban Plans that is agreed by all the partners (experts and cities) and useful for the stakeholders. During this period it has been developed the City and area diagnosis and baseline calculation procedure, NBS scenarios generation, City zoning and evaluation and scaling up guidelines. Some of these actions are still on-going in the following months. The final composition of the methodology continues developing and improving from the feedback from all the partners’ experience during the project.

NBS implementation. Regarding the Demo Sites and implementation activities, during this second period of 18 months of the URBAN GreenUP project, Cities Demo partners have been working in the implementation processes of the technical actions and continue to develop the non-technical actions. At this stage, actions are progressing according to the work plan; however, it has been reported deviations from the work plan in some of them, mainly due to the COVID-19 situation.

URBAN GreenUP has defined a methodology to help Follower cities implement local, long-term RUPs based on lesson learned by Front-runner Cities. Follower cities are currently developing their RUPs following this methodology.

The methodologies to evaluate the social and economic impacts of NBS have been developed, as well as the design of innovative financial mechanisms and business models to foster the implementations of NBS.

Regarding Communication & Dissemination (C&D) plan was delivered at the beginning of the project. It presents the lines of actions followed for the project’s communication and dissemination aspects. This progress has included the Visual identity, Website and social media of the project. Partners continue working in this line, updating and performing the content of the Plan.
URBAN GreenUP’s main outcome will be a methodology to cope with climate change and other societal challenges via NBS implementation in urban areas. Breakthroughs can be summarised as follows.
Integration and systematization of re-naturing actions in urban planning. This will help consider direct, indirect and induced effects of NBS and how these interact with each other.

Implementation of a wide set of innovative NBS. Examples are: wetlands in urban parks for the collection of water for green areas irrigation; biofilters for polluted air; electrowetlands adapted to urban environments; low-cost and low-maintenance green-wall technology; flooding mitigation measures; smart soils; use of green spaces connectivity integrating disparate NBS. Monitoring activities will allow assessing the impacts in city’s challenges in the following months.

Measurement of benefits. URBAN GreenUP has defined the project’s NBS Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in order to measure the benefits of these nature solutions on and their interaction with KPIs collected in the current Standards and literature.

Market creation. URBAN GreenUP will allow to assess the monetary value generated by NBS and will allow to identify the exploitable results from demo sites. It will pursue the creation of business models, design of ad hoc financing mechanisms, assessment of the replicability of the model, and creation of a specific NBS market.
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