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Special edition 2018

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Nature-based solutions for ecologic, economic and social urban regeneration

By Andreas Schmalzbauer und Isabel Sünner

Over the last decades, there has been a deep change in the perception of nature in densely urbanized environments. It is no longer an untouched natural environment outside the city gates, but rather an important element within the cities contributing to a better quality of life and a healthier urban climate.1

The project CLEVER Cities aims to develop nature-based solutions for sustainable and integrative urban renewal in order to combine ecologic, economic and social improvements in mutually reinforcing ways. Nature-based solutions are defined as "actions which are inspired by, supported by or copied from nature".2 They "result in multiple co-benefits for health, the economy, society and the environment, and thus they can represent more efficient and cost-effective solutions than more traditional approaches".3

Within the scope of CLEVER Cities, nature-based solutions will first be introduced as specific measures in the three "Front-runner Cities" Hamburg, London and Milan, and will then be transferred to other locations in Europe, South-America and China. However, the project is not limited to the practical adoption of nature-based solutions for urban renewal, but also promotes their long-term implementation into urban planning processes and aims to develop finance and business models to foster the market uptake of nature-based solutions.

To reach this goal, 33 partners collaborate for a period of 5 years since June 2018. Apart from Hamburg, London and Milan, green interventions are also planned in the "Fellow Cities" Belgrade, Larissa, Madrid, Malmö, Quito, Sfantu Gheorghe as well as in selected Chinese cities, and will be supported by business and academic partners. CLEVER Cities has a total budget of more than 14 million euros and is financed by the European Union's Horizon 2020 program. The project is headed by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

The European Union has promoted nature-based solutions for several years and supports various related research projects4, especially with regard to addressing urban challenges5. These include questions of social division caused by a changing demographic composition such as an increasing ethnical diversity, the necessary reduction of resource consumption as well as new forms of urban mobility to adapt to climate change. Particularly in socially disadvantaged parts of cities adaptive difficulties frequently occur. In addition, further problems such as limited economic advancement opportunities, a lack of access to surrounding nature areas and an elevated emission exposure can be observed.

Due to its relatively high proportion of residents with migration background as well as recipients of social assistance, the Hamburg district of Neugraben-Fischbek was selected as target area for the nature-based solutions within the CLEVER Cities project.6

As part of Hamburg’s project team, HWWI contributes to the implementation of the measures in the project area Neugraben-Fischbek. In particular, the institute will ensure that requirements for the evaluation and data-driven analysis of carried out measures are met. In addition, HWWI will identify possibilities to systematically expand promising nature-based solutions to other parts of Hamburg. Furthermore, it acts as scientific partner for all CLEVER Cities regions. HWWI will monitor all Front-runner Cities in order to assess if the implemented measures achieve the intended improvements in the fields of health, sustainable economic development, social cohesion and security. In its role as work package leader, HWWI is also responsible for transferring nature-based solutions into market-oriented products with robust finance and business models to support their propagation and to entrench the EU's position as market leader for green urban regeneration.

For planning local interventions, CLEVER Cities builds on knowledge and experience gained from existing projects to systematically integrate nature-based solutions into urban development and therefore to promote them on a long-term basis. This is done by in-depth exchange of information between participating cities as well as by local dialogue between the respective city administration, associations, citizens and companies. "CLEVER" stands for "Co-designing locally tailored ecological solutions for value added, socially inclusive regeneration" and aims to underline the need to include all affected parties into the decision processes for planning and implementing measures for urban renewal. "CLEVER" goes beyond solely "smart" technology-based solutions for sustainable urbanization and rather follows a holistic approach to meet ecologic, economic and social challenges. As a consequence, project areas in Hamburg, Milan and London were selected on the basis of their relatively high ethnical diversity, social inequality, high unemployment and high crime rates.

In Neugraben-Fischbek a green corridor will be created to connect the two neighborhoods and green roofs and measures for rainwater management will be implemented. In London Thamesmead, a district characterized by social housing, green spaces, streets and walkways aim to improve the attractiveness of the place and the safety of its residents. In Milan’s district Lorenteggio-Giambellino green roofs are planned and green spaces will be built alongside the railway line to reduce noise pollution.

CLEVER Cities started in June 2018 with a three day kickoff-meeting in Hamburg, in October the local project activities in Hamburg, Milan and London will be presented during public launch events.

2Towards an EU Research and Innovation policy agenda for Nature-Based Solutions & Re-Naturing Cities. Final Report of the Horizon 2020 Expert Group on ‘Nature-Based Solutions and Re-Naturing Cities’.
6Statistisches Amt für Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein. Hamburger Stadtteil-Profile Berichtsjahr 2016. NORD.regional Band 19. https://www.statistik-nord.de/fileadmin/Dokumente/NORD.regional/NR19_Statistik-Profile_HH_2017.pdf

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