Renaturer Les Villes

28-04-2023 / hannes.schwaiger

Guidelines for a ‘depaving’ and ‘regreening’ strategy in cities

The loss of soil functions and ecosystem services is one of the major environmental challenges Europe is facing. Despite a reduction in the last decade, land take in EU28 still amounted to 539km2/year between 2012‐2018. Since the mid‐1950s, the total surface area of cities in the EU has increased by 78% while the population has grown by just 33%. To address this global problem, the European Commission has proposed in the EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 (7th EAP) to achieve ‘no net land take’ by 2050. Sealing agricultural land and open spaces should be avoided as far as possible and the focus should be on building on land that has already been sealed. The implementation of the Net Zero Land Take goal, however necessary it may be, may nevertheless result in even greater urban densification in cities that are already suffering from climate change and dwindling biodiversity. Moreover, the estimated cost and complexity of a renaturing operation above all presuppose the avoidance of any additional land take.

In this context, slowing urban growth and renaturing urban environments have become key strategies. They are all the more relevant as biodiversity is declining significantly in urban areas, the effects of climate change (runoff, flooding, urban heat islands, etc.) are intensifying and the health and wellbeing of city‐dwellers are deteriorating. Renaturing makes it possible to adapt cities to climate change and to make them more permeable to wildlife by developing nature‐based solutions. Our cities are full of areas that have been concreted or asphalted over and where nature could return and flourish. The Paris Region, especially the Greater Paris area, is particularly affected by the consequences of urbanisation and density. The purpose of this guide is to propose a method that will help local authorities to target urban areas where renaturing represents a key strategy to restore biodiversity, adapt to climate change and improve people’s health. Based on feedback from respondents in the field, it provides recommendations on how to implement projects in the best possible conditions.

Full publication on Zenodo – here