The European Commission has adopted a new strategy for encouraging the use of green infrastructure, and for ensuring that the enhancement of natural processes becomes a systematic part of spatial planning. Green infrastructure uses nature to provide ecological, economic and social benefits. Instead of building flood protection infrastructure, for example, a green infrastructure solution would be to allow a natural wetland to absorb the excess water from heavy rain.
“The new strategy underlines how valuable nature is for people, both in urban and rural areas. It shows a strong commitment by the EU to conserve and restore the natural functions of ecosystems, which will have a positive impact on species diversity, while making economic sense” said Chantal van Ham, IUCN European Programme Officer.
Green infrastructure is often cheaper and more durable than alternatives provided through conventional civil engineering. Biodiversity-rich parks, green spaces and fresh air corridors can for example mitigate the negative effects of summer heat waves. In addition to the health and environmental benefits, green infrastructure also brings multiple social benefits: it creates jobs and makes cities more appealing places to live and work. And it allows for wildlife to thrive, even in an urban context.
“The contribution of green infrastructure to the sustainable development of urban areas is particularly significant. We live on an urban planet – more than half of the world population is made of city dwellers and this proportion is expected to reach 70% by 2050. Cities need to start preparing if they intend to live in a sustainable tomorrow” said van Ham.
IUCN is working to increase knowledge on the relation between biodiversity – and the green infrastructure which supports it – and ecosystem services in urban areas. IUCN is a partner in the Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (URBES) project which aims to inform urban planners and decision-makers on how to enhance ecosystem services benefits in urban landscapes.
By developing green infrastructure in urban and rural areas, people can make full use of the benefits and solutions provided by nature. The new EU strategy fully captures the power of European cooperation for implementing these solutions and is a strong boost for the development of a sustainable future.