Insights on integrating social justice and health equity in urban greening at international symposium

On 13 December 2018 the European projects ENABLE, NATURVATION and Greenlulus organised a half day international symposium to share insights how urban greenery can be planned and deployed strategically to creative an inclusive urban society and foster health benefits. The symposium was an official side event of the 11th International Forum on Urbanism in Barcelona (Spain), an ICLEI member. It also included an afternoon workshop in which actors from the City of Barcelona and the region of Catalonia discussed how an equal access to nature can be guaranteed in communities.

Moderated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, experts and practitioners from Barcelona City Council, IS Global, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB), the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ), Autonomous University of Barcelona, SomNatura, Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori (XCT), ENT Environment and Management, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), New York New School and Stockholm Resilience Centre presented research insights from working with local governments, provided recommendations and raised open questions, which still need to be answered to create more just and equitable urban green and blue spaces.

Cities like Barcelona have been working strongly on strengthening the social dimension of greening public spaces. As such, Barcelona is improving knowledge and transforming the green planning methodologies to apply the concept of green infrastructure; creating green again with more participation and co-responsibility for a more ecological and naturalized city. Moreover, all agreed that cities need to be strategic in their planning to prevent the socio-spatial exclusion of the most socially vulnerable residents, their livelihoods, and practices.

Still, if done well – which is the case already in Barcelona and other European cities – green and blue infrastructure can greatly benefit the health and well-being of citizens. This was clearly stated during the discussions, where health outcomes ranged from better mental health, better mood, healthier blood pressure levels to lower cardiovascular mortality rates. The international symposium addressed often controversial issues and offered opportunities to receive more locally specific insights into green and blue infrastructure, which foster social inclusion and make use of its potential of making a city more resilient.