On 18 July, renowned Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took CitiesWithNature – the global urban nature partnership initiative – to the stars, by posting a tweet from SPACE to highlight the importance of urban biodiversity and ecosystem restoration.
AstroSamantha takes CitiesWithNature to the stars for biodiversity
Samantha Cristoforetti, aka AstroSamantha, is a renowned Italian astronaut in the European Space Agency. In 2001, Samantha joined the Italian Air Force, and was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in May 2009. On 23 November 2014, Samantha was launched from the cosmodrome of Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and returned to Earth on 11 June 2015, after spending 200 days in space. The mission, which was given the name Futura, was the second long-duration flight opportunity for the Italian Space Agency, and the eighth for an ESA astronaut.
In 2019, Samantha served as commander for NASA’s 23rd Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO23) mission during a 10-day stay in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius. Samantha returned to the International Space Station for her second mission, Minerva, on 27 April 2022. She was launched in a new SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule named Freedom alongside her Crew-4 crew mates, NASA astronauts Bob “Farmer” Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica “Watty” Watkins.
Samantha is a UNICEF ambassador and donates to UNICEF the proceeds from sales of her memoir Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut, in which she shares her experience of being selected as an astronaut and then training for and flying her first space mission.
AstroSamantha called for proposals on impactful biodiversity and ecosystem restoration work across the globe that is visible from SPACE so that she could highlight the value of nature and the importance of protecting biodiversity during her mission. ICLEI partnered with the City of Cape Town, a long-standing Member and pioneer CitiesWithNature city, and asked AstroSamantha to feature the incredible work that is being done in the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, while also calling on all cities to join CitiesWithNature and strengthen action through collaboration! On 18 July, the following Tweet circulated the globe, directly from Mission Minerva, reaching AstroSamantha’s 989.6k followers:
The space-based tweet highlighted the progress made through the Blaauwberg Large-scale Sand Fynbos Restoration Project in Cape Town. Cape Town is the most biodiverse city in the world, famous for its amazing variety of plants, collectively known as Fynbos. Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is a critically endangered habitat type, intrinsically rich in biodiversity, and found only within the city. The area being restored in Blaauwberg Nature Reserve was highly degraded and covered in dense woody alien invasive species. Besides having immense ecological importance, this area is also historically and socially significant. This restoration project is a prime example of collaboration and co-learning between researchers at a local university and City of Cape Town management, with external funders. Besides its ecological successes and lessons learnt, this project has produced a range of research projects and scientific papers on the various methodologies tested and employed, making it a great case study for other cities across the globe. The restoration project started in 2012 and is ongoing.
Why urban ecosystem restoration?
The total area covered by the world’s cities is set to triple in the next 40 years as millions of people continue to move into cities each week. Cities, regions and towns can control the way they change and grow, through a nature-positive approach. Collaboration across cities globally, and with all stakeholders, are essential to protecting biodiversity, restoring ecosystems, providing safe and accessible green open spaces, and reconnecting people with nature. CitiesWithNature, like Cape Town, are reaching for the stars and leading the way in restoring biodiversity and reconnecting their communities with nature. Restoring biodiversity can restore hope, and will help make cities sustainable and resilient through the ecosystem services provided by nature. Cape Town is one of the first hundred pioneer cities of the global CitiesWithNature initiative – which has now reached over 200 cities committed #ForNature. CitiesWithNature provides the UN Biodiversity-recognized platform that secures collaboration to strengthen the necessary actions to ensure that we have a bright, green future at peace with nature.
By 2025, nearly 6 billion people will live within 200 km of a coastline. Population growth and climate change-related impacts are increasing coastal risks and degrading coastal ecosystems upon which millions depend. Climate change impacts also compound existing pressures, such as pollution from land-based sources, ocean acidification and overfishing. Coastal cities and regions have unique opportunities to mobilize and demonstrate leadership in taking action to protect our ocean and ensure that the ocean and its accompanying coast are sustainably managed.
ICLEI was involved in a number of sessions and played a role in bringing to the forefront the role of subnational governments in ocean governance. As evident during the conference, both national and subnational governments are leading the way, taking domestic and international actions that expand climate-ocean policy and financing for this work.
Organizations and partnership initiatives such as ICLEI, CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature can facilitate learning from coastal city leaders, while simultaneously seeking deeper integration across climate, ocean and biodiversity commitments. These efforts will advance actions that address climate change, support food security and sovereignty, and increase resilience of marine ecosystems, economies, and communities.
Despite the delays in pivotal ocean and climate convenings and benchmarks as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, the UN Oceans conference sparked momentum once again, through the notable outcome of the 2022 UN Oceans Conference – the ‘Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility’ declaration.
Session key messages included
- Coastal territories adaptation has to be considered at a larger territorial scale. From megalopolis to secondary cities and small towns, the more vulnerable urban areas have to collaborate at the regional scale to better design sustainable coastal adaptation strategies. It is crucial to reinforce cooperation at every level and encourage a “whole-of-society” approach.
- Climate coastal adaptation is changing towards a new sustainable paradigm. There is no one-fit-all solution. Managed retreat, nature-based solutions, hard and soft coastal protection, technical innovations, early warning systems, raising awareness, and education are all relevant responses that have to be combined, considering the local context.
- Key coastal stakeholders all have to be engaged in the global coastal transition for a sustainable blue economy, a well-adapted coastline and an equitable future. Local decision makers, populations, civil society, ports, tourism sector and privates should all be part of a co-construction process.
- Coastal adaptation and resilience has to include societal issues. Many communities have a difficult time securing funds and techniques for equitable coastal resilience. Targeting youth and women in terms of livelihood, coastal adaptation might be an opportunity to reduce poverty and social inequalities.
Session key messages included
- Local and regional governments have been leading in developing effective solutions through local public service provision, partnerships and initiatives that include and support fishers, and local populations and their know-how and experience must be harnessed to protect our oceans.
- Co-management approaches among different spheres of government and actors trigger a culture of collaboration and trust thus enabling an ecosystem-based management. These approaches can in turn permeate to other sectors.
- The achievement of sustainable small-scale fisheries calls for inclusive and participatory governance arrangements, at all levels. This entails meaningful participation, taking into account and addressing existing power imbalances, strengthening stakeholder organizations, such as small-scale fisheries organizations and supporting dialogue and peer learning.
- Close collaboration among actors must be backed by scientifically recognized data, all facilitated by impartial elements that ensure accountability and transparent, informed and fair processes.
- The capacity of local and regional governments in building sustainable management models needs to be strengthened. Particularly, the capacity of SIDS and their cities and regions to respond to global challenges in light of increased ocean and sea degradation.
- Local and regional governments are willing to join the decision-making table on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, convening a powerful voice one the global agendas, while promoting opportunities for peer-learning, exchange of experiences and scale-up of effective practices.
RegionsWithNature welcomes subnational governments and partners to our webinar on 13 July. Regions, provinces, prefectures or departments that have already joined RegionsWithNature are invited, as well as other regional/subnational governments and partners that would be interested in joining.
Wednesday, July 13, 15:00 – 16:30 CEST
Other time zones: 08:00 Mexico / 09:00 Quebec / 10:00 São Paulo / 22:00 Aichi
The webinar aims not only to keep you updated about RegionsWithNature developments, but also to gather your suggestions, comments and needs/requests for forging the platform accordingly.
We will also present specific case studies on nature work (including on ecological infrastructure, biodiversity management, and restoration) from the Scottish and the Yucatán Governments.
Urbanization is one of the key defining mega-trends of our time. Four billion people, about half of the world’s population, currently live in urban areas. This number is expected to dramatically increase with the predicted rise in urbanization rates. According to The Nature in the Urban Century report, authored by The Nature Conservancy, Future Earth and The Stockholm Resilience Centre, by 2050, there will be 2.4 billion more people in cities, a rate of urban growth that is equivalent to building a city the population of London every seven weeks. Humanity will urbanize an additional area of 1.2 million km2, larger than the country of Colombia.
The urbanization trend poses a major threat to several critical ecosystems, including wetlands. Wetlands can play a crucial role in urban biodiversity, and in maintaining ecosystems and the well-being of urban communities. When preserved and sustainably used, urban wetlands can provide cities with multiple economic, social and cultural benefits. During storms, urban wetlands absorb excess rainfall, which reduces flooding in cities and prevents disasters and their subsequent costs. The abundant vegetation found in urban wetlands acts as a filter for domestic and industrial waste and contribute to improving water quality.
As cities grow and the demand for land use increases, the tendency is for development to encroach on wetlands, because they are often perceived as wastelands that can be used as dumping grounds or converted for other land uses.
Urban wetlands are prized assets, not wasteland, and therefore should be proactively conserved and integrated into the development and management plans of cities. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) is promoting cities that take exceptional steps to protect their wetlands and benefits to people, by giving credit to cities that prioritize their urban wetlands through an accreditation scheme.
The 172 Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands have agreed to the conservation and wise use of wetlands in their territories. Recognizing the importance of cities and urban wetlands, the Convention introduced a Wetland City accreditation scheme in 2015 (Resolution XII.10). This voluntary scheme provides an opportunity for cities that value their natural and/or human-made wetlands to gain international recognition and positive publicity for their efforts. Cities must apply to be accredited and they have to show that they comply with a number of criteria, including exceptional protection, care and wise use of their wetlands through a range of mechanisms such as urban planning and education.
The intention is that The Wetland City Accreditation scheme will encourage cities in close proximity to and dependent on wetlands, especially Wetlands of International Importance, to highlight and strengthen a positive relationship with these valuable ecosystems, for example through increased public awareness of wetlands and participation in municipal planning and decision-making. The Accreditation scheme should further promote the conservation and wise use of urban and peri-urban wetlands, as well as sustainable socio-economic benefits for local people.
During the 59th meeting of the Convention on Wetlands Standing Committee on 26 May 2022, the Co-Chairs of the Convention on Wetlands Independent Advisory Committee on Wetland City Accreditation announced that 25 applicant cities had been accepted in recognition of their exceptional efforts to safeguard urban wetlands for people and nature.
Congratulations to the cities that have been accredited! One of the cities, Cape Town, is one of the pioneer CitiesWithNature – a global partnership initiative that recognizes and enhances the value of nature in and around cities across the world. The 2022 accredited cities are:
Forests sequester about one third of greenhouse gas emissions, yet only a handful of U.S. communities include trees in GHG inventories.
Washington, D.C. (August 19, 2019) – Today, ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability USA (ICLEI) unveiled new guidance that enables U.S. cities and counties to include forests and trees within their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting, a key activity to ensure representation of local forestry and land use consideration in climate action planning. Developed in partnership with the Woods Hole Research Center and World Resources Institute (WRI), and funded by Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Forest and Land Use Appendix to ICLEI’s U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions will help fill a critical gap in enabling communities to develop climate action related to land management at a local level.
Forests and trees sequester about a third of the greenhouse gas emissions that humans emit every year; however, a study conducted by ICLEI showed that 60 percent of U.S. community respondents did not include forests or trees in their greenhouse gas inventories due to a lack of guidance on how to do so.
“Failing to include forest and trees within U.S. climate action plans — which serve as such a critical component to meeting global climate mitigation goals — simply due to lack of available guidance was a huge missed opportunity,” said Angie Fyfe, Executive Director, ICLEI USA. “The U.S. has some of the best data on land use, we couldn’t let limited expertise on how to put these numbers together be the cause for inaction.”
More than 3,500 people have downloaded The U.S. Community Protocol since 2012. The Forest and Land Use Appendix of the Protocol provides, for the first time, guidance to U.S. communities for estimating the emissions and removals from forests. The Appendix also considers “trees outside forests”, including urban trees and trees in croplands, which are often overlooked in national assessments.
The protocol was piloted with Montgomery County, Maryland; Los Angeles County, California; and Whatcom County, Washington; representing the dramatic spectrum of climate and land cover across the country.
“Montgomery County jumped at the opportunity to explore the sequestration benefits associated with trees and forests,” said Marc Elrich, County Executive, Montgomery County, Maryland. “Given our aggressive GHG reduction goals of 80 percent by 2027 and carbon neutrality by 2035, increased sequestration must be in the mix of strategies we employ. The new protocol also has prompted us to think more deeply about natural climate solutions ranging from reducing the heat-island effect to increasing sequestration in the agricultural sector.”
“The protocol provides a baseline for communities to start acknowledging the climate benefits that come from leaving forests and trees standing, increasing tree canopy cover in cities and incorporating trees into agricultural landscapes,” said Nancy Harris, Forest Program Research Manager at World Resources Institute and co-author of the protocol. “Having this guidance at a sub-state level is critical, given most decisions around land use are made at a very local scale.”
ICLEI USA has revised its ClearPath GHG emissions management software tool with new calculators that will allow communities to develop GHG inventories with land use in mind from the outset and is encouraging its member communities to see the new guidance to consider how forests and trees can be integrated into climate action plans.
With the release of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) global assessment, it is increasingly clear that biodiversity and natural ecosystems play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the planet, particularly in the face of climate change.
The natural environment provides many valuable and free services that contribute directly to human well-being and livelihoods. In a rapidly urbanizing world, cities and their surrounding areas will play a key role in leading action to protect the natural ecosystems that support to human life and vibrant economies.
Recent history has seen the large-scale replacement of natural ecosystems with built up areas, putting cities and their surroundings under increased pressure in terms of resource scarcity, degraded air and water quality, and reduced green space. But this does not have to be the case – local and regional governments are already working to mainstream biodiversity planning into local policies and ensure that the natural ecosystems that support human life are protected.
Natural asset mapping is a first step towards raising awareness of the critical role that nature and natural ecosystems play in supporting healthy and balanced urban life. It is also a key step for local governments to take in order to integrate ecosystem management into urban planning.
How natural asset mapping works
Dar es Salaam in Tanzania is one of nine cities that has worked with ICLEI to map its natural assets through the INTERACT-Bio project. This project supports expanding urban communities in the Global South to improve the utilization and management of nature while providing them with nature-based solutions and associated long-term benefits.
These cities used a two-step methodology for the mapping process. First, high-resolution remotely sensed spatial data was acquired from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 mission and the project team worked closely with GeoTerraImage to develop land cover classes that highlight areas which provide ecosystem services, such as wetlands, mangroves, grasslands and woody vegetation. This analysis resulted in a detailed baseline spatial dataset that defines 12 different classes of landcover and can be used to generate a variety of mapping outputs and analytics.
The second step combines the data and information generated from the remote natural asset mapping process with local spatial information about urban nature features and the state that they are in, scientific studies and a deliberately participatory and iterative process to gather input from local experts and city officials.
Through natural asset mapping that combines customized earth observation data and information with input from local experts and stakeholders, local governments can make informed decisions about managing and investing in green space and green and blue infrastructure that enhances resilience and nature-based development.
The value of nature in Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam has many important natural areas that support the city and its people. Its natural assets range from beaches, rivers, mangroves, coastal and Afromontane forests to wildlife such as birds, bats, monkeys, rich marine life, and coastal plants and animals.
With careful planning, these natural resources can be protected, enhanced and even expanded to sustainably provide many benefits. These include enhanced fresh water provision, food, timber, jobs, cooling of the city, reduced air pollution, protection against natural disasters, opportunities for tourism, recreation and relaxation, and a sense of place.
During the mapping process in Dar es Salaam, city representatives and local experts identified challenges such as dwindling green open spaces, over exploitation of natural resources like indigenous trees and urban heat island effect as key priorities for the city to address.
The natural asset mapping pulled on local knowledge and research and yielded a collection of thematic and explanatory maps that make the case for the importance of green open space in the city and establishing a record which the city can work from to develop policy and practice.
The strength of this approach is that the maps can be overlaid to expose areas where investment in greening can deliver and optimize desired benefits, such as cooling and air pollution reduction.
This approach also highlights potential partnerships. For example, the transport sector implements greening as well as the City Council. The maps identifies areas where these sectors can collaborate and co-invest their greening budgets to optimize urban ecosystem benefits.
A summary document with key maps and information, with policy and action recommendations was developed as a tool that will support they city in making strong arguments for investing in urban nature and nature-based solutions.
The thematic mapping also formed the basis for the development of an illustrated poster of Dar es Salaam that show the natural assets in the city in an attractive and accessible format. The purpose is to create awareness of the presence and value of nature in cities and to inspire officials and the public to protect and benefit from urban nature.