Nature-based solutions (NBS) for urban redesign

Nature-based solutions (NBS) for urban redesign
Nature-based solutions (NBS) for urban redesign

Green Home, supports the European Biodiversity Strategy by 2030 , founded on the restoration of nature to fight climate change. The project is coordinated by prof. Nicola (Nic) Pacini, Researcher afferent to the Department of Environmental Engineering (DIAm) of the University of Calabria


Nature Based Solutions (NBS): what it is

Strategies to strengthen the links between communities and their environment have converged towards nature-based solutions (NbS) to redesign, reuse and adapt our cities with the integration of blue and green infrastructure to improve the resilience of local ecological processes, reduce the risk of disasters and combat climate change.

The most influential official definition of NbS was drawn up by the IUCN in 2016 (WCC-2016-Res-069-IN) as follows:
Nature-based solutions are defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.



The general goal of nature-based solutions is “supporting the achievement of the company's development goals and safeguarding human well-being, cultural and social values, improving the resilience of ecosystems, their capacity for renewal and the provision of services. Their broadcasting fully responds to the environmental challenges faced by cities affected by global changes, like floods and droughts, air pollution, heat islands, air and water pollution and further climatic impacts.

Solutions that address the local water cycle (rain water, surface runoff, groundwater, evaporation,…) are common, since the risks related to water represent the 90% of all disasters (PEDRR 2016).

NbS can answer the 37% the needs of global climate adaptation (IPBES 2019), which is crucial in the Chinese cities that host the 70% of the population and responsible for 85% of total national emissions, and it is very relevant in vulnerable countries of the global South, dove communities rely on ecosystem services for their livelihoods.

NBS as a response to the ongoing pandemic. The pandemic has reduced consumption, transport slowed down and redefined a closer relationship between local communities and the surrounding environment, highlighting forgotten vulnerabilities in today's development processes. In this scenario, nature-based solutions are a key component of sustainable development strategies that can have great potential in peri-urban contexts, urban and rural.

Official Acknowledgments. Nature-based solutions have received wide recognition from United Nations agencies, governments, NGOs and are a key component of sustainable development strategies. Under the name of Eco-DRR/CCA (Ecological Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Action), the NBS were approved by the 12th Conference of the Parties to the CBD (Decision XII / 20, 2008 of the CoP9)), from the XII Ramsar Convention (Resolution XII of the CoP). /13, 2015), l’UNCCD 12th CoP (2015), and are recognized by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) adottato alla Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 a Sendai (Japan).

In the 2018, the CBD has developed a set of voluntary guidelines for ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction. In its fifth evaluation report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted a growing recognition of the value of ecosystem-based adaptation.

In the 2019, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies based in Hayama, in Japan, published a report on the current status and priority actions to increase ecosystem-based approaches in the G20 countries.
In September 2019, the UN climate action summit declared natural-based solutions (NBS) as one of the main areas of action, in parallel with climate finance and carbon prices, the energy transition, the industrial transition, infrastructure, urban and local action, resilience and adaptation, etc.
The IUCN has developed a global standard for NbS with 8 criteria e 28 indicators and a guide for the use of the IUCN global standard for nature-based solutions (2020).



BREAKING NEWS: Even today the world has improved compared to yesterday! - Sweet life

The situation in the world.

• Italy has very little experience on NbS, but apparently it is motivated by urban reforestation.
• Germany (and Holland) he is champion of NbS, with multiple initiatives involving African cities in particular.
• China is made aware of NbS by its own scientists (the Chinese concept of “sponge city”)
• Japan is in favor.
• Saudi Arabia has proposed a land restoration issue closely linked to NbS.



Nbs are affordable and have multiple benefits, many of which cannot be easily obtained by alternative means. Soil restoration, wetlands, bio-corridors and other urban natural resources reduces the hydrological risk, promotes climate adaptation and provides the following important additional benefits:
1. enhances local biodiversity, important source of cultural services,
2. it promotes healthy lifestyles and above all mental health, particularly affected during the pandemic,
3. strengthens the social fabric within local communities by fostering a sense of identity and promoting citizen involvement and youth employment.
Allow the adoption of NbS in support of the implementation of art. 6 of the Paris Agreement can motivate countries to increase their ambitions in defining nationally determined contributions (NDC).

Support for agriculture. Although the concept of NbS is mainly developed in an urban context, in the lasts 3 years the application of these strategies have been re-evaluated to include the agricultural landscape as well, as a key factor in promoting sustainable intensification, an essential strategy to improve food security without increasing emissions.

Also in this case, the implementation of NbS should correct the locally disturbed water cycle by implementing a sustainable water management strategy. NbS should provide a framework for developing an integrated approach to ensure sustainability in crop production, livestock, forestry, fishing and agriculture and in the management of natural resources by achieving greater efficiency in the use of resources and resource productivity.

This approach should be an alternative to the Green Revolution, which obtained a higher production, however, using GMO varieties and intensive irrigation with chemicals, and causing severe environmental impacts, including soil degradation and biodiversity loss.

Greater food safety. It is questionable whether NbS can / should have an impact on a healthy diet. Ideally, NbS farming practices should produce nutrient-rich foods, distributed and consumed fresh through short chain value chains. It should promote local varieties, more suited to the local soil and climate, more resistant and less in need of fertilizers and chemicals. NbS participatory agriculture should promote direct contact between producers and consumers, so as to motivate healthier and more informed food choices.
Il Committee on World Food Security (CFS) approved in its 42nd session (CFS, 2015) a series of eight recommendations, the first of which states "Promote an ecosystem approach and participatory mechanisms for conservation, the restoration and sustainable management of ecosystems, involving actors at the appropriate scales”.




Need for a multidisciplinary approach. The implementation of nature-based strategies require a multidisciplinary approach that involves engineers, hydrologists, climate experts, sociologists and natural scientists. Most of the necessary skills and experience are not available in normal local authorities.
Need to integrate social aspects. This is necessary to make NbS feasible and relevant, in such a way that the design of urban NbS meets the expectations of users and at the same time facilitates co-management by relieving local authorities of the need to manage large tracts of new "green and blue" spaces within cities. Effective stakeholder involvement will provide critical local knowledge of the ecosystem structure and processes required to design highly site-specific solutions.
NbS needs to harmonize with the ongoing transformation of energy use in our cities by maximizing energy efficiency, especially in the construction sector (40% of energy demand); the spread of renewable energies and the promotion of efficient mobility, clean, safe and accessible for all, including zero-emission public transport and infrastructure for active mobility (on foot and by bicycle).
Therefore long periods are needed to organize participatory and transdisciplinary platforms, which can make NbS expensive.




The project research activities carried out in this area aim to ensure adequate involvement of the cities, sectoral integration and geographical spread through the following strategies.

Creativity, Idea, Inspiration

a) Facilitate and strengthen the adoption by intermediary cities of Eco-DRR / CCA evaluation and management plans specific, promoting NbS as a cost-effective multi-sector integrated solution to address adaptation to climate change, the current multiple ecological crisis and promote urban renewal aligned with the achievement of the SDGs (with particular attention to afforestation and reforestation policies, and the prevention of further soil degradation and the maintenance of its ecological functions).

b) Monitor the effectiveness of NbS (also based on the IUCN global standard for NbS), generate experiences that can be shared internationally (also through digital platforms) and encourage adequate information for a more participatory decision-making process.

c) Develop pilot projects aimed at accompanying the vertical integration of NBS into national policies through the involvement of regulatory bodies, generating know-how and skills development programs that can encourage government agencies to integrate NbS into national and sectoral strategies.

d) Design NBS funding strategies, to create a favorable environment and encourage the involvement of multi-stakeholders (also through the innovative FSD tools).

e) Harmonize NbS with the continuous transformation of energy use in cities by maximizing energy efficiency, especially in the construction sector (40% of energy demand); the spread of renewable energies and the promotion of efficient mobility, clean, safe and accessible for all, including zero-emission public transport and infrastructure for active mobility (on foot and by bicycle).



Scientific manager of the project

  • Prof. Nicola (Nic) Pacini, PhD.
  • Researcher at the Department of Environmental Engineering (DIAm)
  • CV (download)