Currently over 70% of Europe’s population lives in cities, which is expected to increase to over 80% by the middle of the century. This translates to 36 million new urban citizens by 2050 and brings new challenges related to water and energy supply, waste management and spatial planning. Cities are also more vulnerable to climate change, especially with their population growing older. In order to address those challenges, the environment unit within the Directorate- General (DG) Research and Innovation of the European Commission launched the concept of nature-based solutions (NBS ) as a way of making ecosystems and nature an integral part of sustainable development. European Commission defines nature-based solutions (NBS ) to Societal challenges as solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. The aim of such solutions is to bring more, nature and natural features and processes into cities through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.

Within the framework of Horizon 2020 nature-based solutions are supposed to solve the problems identified under social challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials. Last year’s call for proposals: SCC -02-2016-2017: Demonstrating innovative nature-based solutions in cities, was very successful for Polish participants and four projects with Polish participation are about to start.

GROW GREEN – Green Cities for Climate and Water Resilience, Sustainable Economic Growth, Healthy Citizens and Environment – brings the partner cities together to find sustainable solutions to various climate change related problems. The front runner cities: Manchester (UK), Valencia (Spain), Wrocław (Poland) and Wuhan (China) and the follower cities: Lille (France), Zadar (Croatia) and Modena (Italy) are currently inhabited by 12.7 million people and sit at the heart of wider metropolitan areas which are home to 17.8 million people.

All the cities already experience flooding and heat stress, with projections for these issues to increase due to climate change and ongoing development. GROW GREEN brings the partner cities together on the basis of these similarities but also their differences. Across the 6 European and 1 Chinese city they represent the range of different cities that are found across the world, and the different climate risks that they face. The cities will demonstrate a replicable approach for the development and implementation of city NBS strategies.

GROW GREEN will also provide a platform presenting various ways that NBS are embedded in the long-term planning, development, operation and management of cities around the world. The project is coordinated by Manchester City Council, Poland is represented by City of Wrocław, Wrocław Agglomeration Development Agency and Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences.

CONNECTING – COproductioN with NaturE for City Transitioning, INnovation and Governance – project partners will form a community of cities fostering transdisciplinary capacity-building between cities within a ‘transitioning, innovation and governance academy’. This academy will co-develop the policy and practices necessary to scale up urban resilience, innovation and governance via nature-based solutions.

CONNECTING will provide the reference framework for a new generation of urban nature-based solution processes and empower transitioning ambassadors who will globalize this approach through a strategy targeting multiplier cities. The project is coordinated by Trinity College Dublin. Polish partners in this project include: City of Poznań and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

INASOUL – Innovative NAture-based Solutions for Urban resilience and welL-being – the project aims at the provision of a robust evidence base on nature-based solutions through the development and demonstration in urban settlements. Implementation of INASOUL will support resilience and well-being in cities. It will also contribute to green economy, by creating green jobs and exploring innovative financing in selected cities. INASOUL is coordinated by IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and Polish partners are City of Lodz and European regional Centre of Ecohydrology – Polish Academy of Sciences.

ACQUA – Adaption to Climate change, improving Quality of life in Urban Areas – the project has a main goal to adapt cities to climate change and improve quality of life in urban areas. For this reason, impact is created for water and climate challenges as well as for socio-cultural, economic and environmental challenges. The main output of ACQUA is an online reference framework that can be used by facilitators, suppliers and beneficiaries of NBS and that functions as guidance for application of iNBS in urban planning in any context, worldwide.

ACQUA is coordinated by GEMEENTE UTRECHT and Poland is represented in the consortium by ITTI Sp.z o.o. Growing interest in a current Horizon 2020 call for proposals proves that Polish cities became keen on nature-based solutions and are looking forward to join demonstration projects and turn into living labs. Participation in Horizon 2020 is for Polish local authorities not only a smart way to get European funds for local investments but also bring many other benefits, such as for example opportunity to test the most innovative solutions not yet on the market. Furthermore, joining the international consortium creates a space for networking, exchange of experience and best practice.

OPPLA platform was created for all parties interested in implementation of nature based solutions. The main goal of OPPLA is to simplify the way the knowledge about environment is obtained and shared. Membership in Oppla allows access to the following services:

  • Ask Oppla: a crowd-sourced enquiry service, where members of the Oppla community help to answer each other’s questions.
  • Oppla Marketplace: a knowledge supermarket where you can obtain guidance, software, data and other useful resources, as well as promote the outputs of your own project or network.
  • Oppla Community: an easy-to-use system for networking with other members from around the world.

Up till now over 60 universities, research institutes, agencies and enterprises are contributing to Oppla as part of a joint activity between the OPERAs and OpenNESS projects, funded by the European Commission FP7 Programme.

Other valuable source of information and inspiration for nature-based solutions is Think Nature Platform, created within the framework of Horizon 2020 project. The ThinkNature Platform brings together multi-disciplinary expertise on nature-based solutions. By joining the platform it becomes possible to ask questions, view case studies and share strategies.

Think Nature topic lines include:

  • Enhancing sustainable urbanisation
  • Restoring degraded ecosystems
  • Developing climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Improving risk: management and resilience.

If you have any questions, please contact our Polish NC P expert Magdalena Głogowska, PhD.