How to design and co-create greener cities?

The URBACT City Festival is one of the main European events for urban development and an excellent place to present new ideas, share experiences and learn from cities across Europe.

This 15th edition of the Festival was attended by over 500 representatives of cities, civil society organisations, governments, business and other experts, and celebrated the important role of cities as leading actors of change for a sustainable future.

Unlike many other events focusing on sustainable cities, the Urbact City Festival gives smaller and mid-sized cities the chance to be in the limelight and share in the experience, which is often reserved for capitals cities.

A special session on nature-based solutions for more healthy, liveable and climate resilient cities, hosted by GrowGreen’s Jonny Sadler and Chantal van Ham, featured in this year’s programme. This inspirational session aimed to give insights in the value of nature for a range of urban challenges, how to develop, implement and fund a nature-based solutions strategy.

Representatives of the cities of Bologna and Stavanger shared practical examples for developing an integrated strategy as well as pilot projects for implementing natural solutions in response to climate, water, health and other urban challenges.

Torgeir Esig Sørensen, Landscape Architect and Head of the Parks and Streets Department in Stavanger presented highlights in the process that lead to the development of a true green miracle, the city’s Continuous Urban Green Structure. The city offers 52 green trails, that were developed already in the 1980s, to bring the green structure to life for its citizens. Stavanger’s green structure is a result of a planned and deliberate development based on sound knowledge of the relationship between green urban infrastructure, public health and the health of the urban environment at large. Secrets for its success are: a great vision; political determination and courage; and ability to implement the plans.

The city of Bologna was represented by Technical Expert Raffaella Gueze, who presented several examples of nature-based solutions pilots in the heart of the historical centre, part of the ROCK project. This EU Horizon 2020 project considers historic city centres as extraordinary laboratories to demonstrate how Cultural Heritage can be a unique and powerful engine of regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth for the whole city. Pilots that contribute to the implementation of the Bologna Climate Adaptation Plan, include a roof garden for the historical Opera House, a green wall and greening the university square. Citizens contributed to the financing of trees through crowdfunding.

Jonny Sadler, Programme Director of the Manchester Climate Change Agency and coordinator of the GrowGreen project highlighted financing and the development of business models that attract investors as one of the main challenges for upscaling the implementation of nature-based solutions. A conference on innovative financing for creating greener cities will be held in Manchester on 26-27 March 2019.

Magda Kubecka, one of the trend spotters who actively followed the discussions at the URBACT City Festival to identify ground breaking ideas and solutions for the future concluded: “We need to deliver nature as part of everything we do in cities – it’s not a nice to have, it’s essential and crucial”.

URBACT is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development and involves 550 cities, 30 countries and 7,000 active local stakeholders. It jointly financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) and the Member States.

The next URBACT call for Action Planning networks will open on 7 January 2019, we would be pleased to invite interested cities to contact us to explore the opportunities for a network on nature-based solutions. For more information:

Presentation Torgeir Sorensen, Stavanger

Presentation Manchester and IUCN_Urbact City Festival_September 2018

Presentation Raffaella Gueze, Bologna