GrowGreen meets in Valencia, paving the way for upscaling nature-based solutions

The GrowGreen project team met last week at the beautiful premises of Las Naves, a public entity linked to the municipality of Valencia that promotes urban innovation to improve people’s quality of life. Representatives of GrowGreen’s six European partner cities – Manchester, Valencia, Wroclaw, Brest, Modena and Zadar – met with partners from across Europe to discuss common challenges and agree on the project’s next steps to catalyse action for nature-based solutions projects and strategies.

The GrowGreen project team

Berto Jaramillo, Councillor for Innovation of the City of Valencia, opened the meeting with an inspiring speech. He described how GrowGreen is an investment in collaboration and social innovation. Nature will improve health, quality of life and economic outcomes for citizens and enhance their opportunities for participation. In this way, projects like GrowGreen will help to transform Valencia into a city that takes care of its people and the planet.

Over the next day and a half, the partners discussed common challenges and opportunities in designing and implementing demonstration projects for nature-based solutions and incorporating the lessons learnt into the development of city-wide strategic plans. Key issues included monitoring the impact of nature-based solutions, effectively engaging stakeholders and the public, capacity building, financing, market analysis and business models for nature-based solutions, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the solutions implemented.

The project cities presented the current developments for nature-based solutions, demonstrating the progress made in developing greener, more liveable and sustainable urban areas. Some of the highlights were:

  • The City of Wroclaw is leading the way in co-designing the greening of city neighbourhoods together with citizens, creating a butterfly effect through nature-based solutions
  • The Manchester team is completing long-term plans for effectively implementing nature-based solutions in the neighbourhood of West Gorton, engaging citizens and working across a range of social, environmental and economic challenges
  • Valencia is working on various actions to integrate nature-based solutions in sustainable urban development: a blue green corridor, a small sustainable forest and an urban orchard
  • Wuhan, China, the only non-European frontrunner city in GrowGreen, will invest in water management – reducing pollution and waterlogging, and in improving the city’s network of rivers and lakes
  • Nature is at the heart of environmental policy in the City of Brest and many actions are being taken to increase awareness amongst its citizens of the value of nature
  • To reduce flooding and other climate related challenges, the City of Modena is determined to develop its nature-based solutions strategy inspired by the GrowGreen partners
  • Zadar is starting to develop a nature-based solutions strategy despite facing challenges with building capacity and engaging stakeholders

The project consortium visited the neighbourhood of Benicalap, in the north of Valencia, which will be the site of the city’s nature-based solutions demonstration projects. Benicalap Park and the nearby small gardens used to grow food are the main green spaces in the neighbourhood at present. The nature-based solutions planned for the area include a small forest that expands the park and improves the connection between the surrounding gardens and the city centre.

Benicalap allotment gardens

Seeing the challenges and potential of one of GrowGreen’s neighbourhoods inspired the project team to agree on plans for the coming year and to strengthen collaboration between project teams and local stakeholders to finalise designs for their nature-based solutions. The cities identified specific areas in which they need support to develop and implement their nature-based solutions strategies, particularly on the need for innovative financing. To address this, GrowGreen will host a conference on innovative and sustainable financing in the Autumn of this year, which will support the GrowGreen cities and others in making use of the range of available sources of funding for nature-based solutions. The relationships between the seven GrowGreen cities were redefined to allow them to strengthen knowledge sharing and to work together more effectively across common challenges.

At the same time, monitoring of current conditions at the demonstration sites will get underway to establish a baseline before work on the ground begins. What we learn from these processes will feed into city-wide strategic plans for nature-based solutions in all the GrowGreen cities. Targeted knowledge sharing and capacity building will increase awareness and strengthen engagement with key stakeholders within the project cities on the value of nature for climate and water related challenges.