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Fostering nature-based solutions for smart, green and healthy urban transitions in Europe and China

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REGREEN (Fostering nature-based solutions for smart, green and healthy urban transitions in Europe and China)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

Urban systems globally experience significant and interlinked societal challenges including pressures on public health and well-being and growing inequalities and social disruption. At the same time, urban systems are particularly vulnerable to impacts of climate change and suffer from degraded or lack of natural ecosystems to help alleviate these impacts.
A promising approach to deal with these challenges is to work with nature’s capacity and qualities in a sustainability perspective. Working with nature in urban settings has advantages over other approaches: multi-functionality, multi-benefits and cost-effectiveness. Nature Based Solutions (NBS) are interventions that seek to restore, improve, enhance or conserve natural capital and biodiversity in terms of habitats or ecosystems.
Subsequently, these ecosystems provide enhanced multiple ecosystem services that contribute to social and economic benefits, reducing the urban societal challenges. They can help build climate resilience in cities, improve liveability, and in collaboration with other urban priorities contribute to building inclusive communities, closing social equality gaps, while promoting innovative businesses and jobs.
The aim of Regreen is to generate evidence for how Naturebased solutions (NBS) underpinned by improved urban governance, and public and private participation can systematically integrate ecosystem services and biodiversity and advocate their benefits and values in urban planning to meet societal challenges including climate change resilience, public health and well-being, and social inclusion. Cocreation with urban planners, citizens and business in urban living labs and educational programs for children ensure long-term sustainability of solutions, and support to business development assist further realization. This to accelerate the crucial transition toward equitable, green and healthy cities in Europe and China.
The focus in the first period has been on
i) establishment of project internal and external communication platforms and processes
ii) the development of the conceptual and analytical frameworks and models employed,
iii) consolidating the urban living labs and prioritizing the research and engagement activities, and
iv) explore business incubation and understanding the market framework and needs for nature-based entreprises.

Re i) the project internal communication platform is based on Sharepoint for sharing of data, ongoing research documents, tracking of progress in activities in Work Packages and sharing of information of planned activities. External communication channels have been established through the project website, twitter account and LinkedIn. Internal communication has been full established.

Re ii) The development of a conceptual framework is based on an inter-disciplinary approach across WPs. Analytical frameworks have been developed and outlines of data collection protocols for mapping, models and surveys have been completed. Mapping and monitoring of urban land-cover changes to understand urban drivers and pressures over time has been completed. Models of ecosystem services is under development as site-specific models for UHI, noise, air pollution, flooding, biodiversity, and recreation. Analytical frameworks have been developed for educational approaches, governance studies, evidence, perceptions and assessment of the totality of benefits and values of NBS and market analysis for NBS. REGREEN co-develops scenarios across WP 2, 3, 4 and 7 of NBS interventions in the ULLs. The scenarios will be used as the basis for analysis in ecosystem service modelling, valuation and governance.

Re iii) 6 Urban Living Labs have been consolidated, three in Europe (Aarhus – DK, Paris Region – France, Velika Gorica – Croatia) and three in China (Beijing, Ningbo and Shanghai). Prioritisation of challenge areas and NBS foci in individual ULLs have been completed and common but differentiated scenarios for NBS across the ULLs is under consolidation.

Re iv) A market research has been completed as basis for further development of business models, while also the process of developing new approaches that will include for example accelerator programmes has been established. An assessment of innovation hubs and business stakeholders form the baseline for the continuous work on creating a network of NBEs.
REGREEN operates along three distinct expected impact categories (EI).
EI #1: Restored and functioning urban ecosystems with an enhanced capacity to deliver their services
Within the first progress reporting period, REGREEN has advanced the understanding of urban drivers and pressures through the analysis across the European and Chinese ULLs at urban scale in ten-year-increments between 1985-2018 along seven land-cover classes at 30m resolution.
REGREEN has also established a framework for mapping at neighbourhood scale using ultra-fine resolution of remotely sensed techniques to derive urban structure types and combines these with multiple and interacting pressures into the mapping of urban challenges, including the combination with socio-demographic data.
REGREEN has produced initial model output for noise mitigation in Paris Region, applied heat mitigation modelling to Paris Region and Velika Gorica and conducted evidence reviews of impacts of urban forestry on hydrology, water quality and aquatic biology
REGREEN has developed and conducted an innovative in-depth method to theorize a NBS-human wellbeing complex system, using Causal Loop Diagrams to develop our understanding of the complex systems linking NBS and human health and wellbeing. The work has taken the case of street trees and tested it for pragmatic implementation with ULLs.

EI#2: Make a business and investment case for nature-based solutions on the basis of increased evidence about benefits of restored urban ecosystems with regards to urban liveability, climate change resilience, social inclusion, urban regeneration, public health and well-being.
the basis was laid to develop business and investment cases that will be developed throughout the project. This included a market research that illustrated the status quo and possible niches in which new business models can be developed.

EI#3: Guidelines for (1) cost effective urban ecosystem restoration and ecological rehabilitation measures and (2) new planning approaches and methods
REGREEN aims to cover a significant gap of knowledge in relation to evidence-based cost-effectiveness studies or urban and peri-urban NBS. REGREEN will publish guidelines for urban policy makers and planners that are in the process of or plan to enhance the use and uptake of NBS in urban strategies and policies.
REGREEN aims to use NBS based policies as a platform for developing principles and guidelines for improving the capacity of city authorities to learn and adapt to new situations and challenges through integrated, equitable and innovative activities and institutional structures.
REGREEN Kick-off meeting October 2019 in ULL Aarhus, Denmark