In the face of climate change and increasing environmental, economic and social pressures, building resilience and sustainable development has become a strategic issue for cities. For a decade, the Resilient Cities conference series organised by ICLEI has created an international and creative space where local governments, researchers, business and civil society can meet and contribute to the learning community on urban resilience.

For ICLEI, resilient cities to “absorb and recover from any shock or stress while maintaining essential functions, structures, and identity as well as adapting and thriving in the face of continual change. Building resilience requires identifying and assessing hazard risks, reducing vulnerability and exposure, and lastly, increasing resistance and adaptive capacity.” As Resilient Cities 2019 kicks off, it is clear that nature-based solutions are on the agenda. NATURVATION is sharing our findings on “taking action for urban nature”, drawing on 54 case studies from 18 European and international cities.

In terms of governance strategies, our work suggests that there is considerable gains to be made from aligning European and national policy agendas to use nature-based solutions to address climate change and the ways in which cities are working with nature for a wider range of sustainability goals. Using a range of governance approaches, cities can generate new partnerships and initiatives to realise urban sustainability through nature-based solutions. Making sure these initiatives can be sustained relies on creating strong roots – core principles such as being inclusive, ensuring social justice, and ongoing recognition of the need for ambitious action are needed to realise their potential.

In terms of business models, our research shows that coordinating the contributions of different actors to realising nature based-solutions is one of the key opportunities, but also challenges of implementing urban nature-based solutions. Our work maps out different models that depict how the integration of nature-based solutions can benefit different people and organisations (including reduction of climate risks, improving health and quality of life, and use of urban public space). Models range from the green densification model, which integrates nature-based solutions into urban real estate development to the education model, where urban nature-based solutions are set up and managed in support of environmental education.

In terms of innovation pathways, our work investigates the enabling conditions and driving forces for nature-based solutions in the context of urban sustainability transitions. Our research provides an entry point to explore and better understand innovation pathways for nature-based solutions. It presents 12 examples of nature-based solutions, and illustrates the findings through: four targets (Happy and healthy cities, Water friendly cities, Renaturing cities, and Resilient and thriving cities); three processes (Crisis to connectivity, Marginal to mainstream, Government to governance); and four actions (Leading & Visioning, Governing & Collaborating, Experimenting & Learning, and Mobilising & Financing).

In terms of citizen engagement, our work highlights that diverse values, interests, and needs are associated with nature-based solutions. It is therefore important that they are taken into account in decision-making. As engaging communities contribute to realising all the sustainability benefits of nature-based solutions, our research helps to outline how to engage diverse communities and actors in decision-making. This covers guidance on how marginalized groups can be reached and included, and describes what works in terms of approaches and methods to citizen engagement for nature-based solutions. Our findings aim to support organisations that are working with nature-based solutions at the grassroots level.

The conference and related events at Resilient Cities 2019 offer exciting possibilities to advance investment in and implementation of nature-based solutions in Europe and around the world. For further insights from 54 examples of nature-based solutions in 18 cities explore our NATURVATION website to find a collection of snapshots and briefs on urban resilience and urban forests and water challenges with practical and innovative experiences of nature-based solutions.