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The COP 15 and the New Urban Agenda Find Naturally Common Ground
In the just-concluded COP15 on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Montreal, Member States made a historic deal to protect global biodiversity. A very significant part of this landmark agreement is the “30x30” goal that recommends that 30% of lands and oceans on Earth be protected areas by 2030. Also part of this is the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which contains a target to increase the area, quality, and connectivity of green and blue spaces in urban areas.
The links between the CBD and the New Urban Agenda are significant. Fundamentally, both agreements recognize the importance of biodiversity and sustainable urbanization in addressing global challenges and promoting sustainable development. Urban areas are expected to house two-thirds of the human population by 2050. Meanwhile, as the conversion of nature for human purposes accelerates, the frontier between natural and built environments is constantly expanding. Increasing consumption also has broader impacts as global supply chains drive habitat loss in faraway places. Both are major drivers of the loss of natural habitat.
Nature-based solutions provide an excellent incentive for cities to invest in nature. Urban environments and other man-made habitats often do provide homes for significant numbers of wildlife, and ecosystems provide critical services such as air purification and flood prevention. These two agendas can find convergence, but cities must proactively plan and manage their growth to prevent unnecessary sprawl and strengthen the health of ecosystems within and around them. An example of this is a mapping methodology recently piloted by UN-Habitat predicts land use conflict zones and helps cities decide where and how to develop.
Nature is being destroyed more quickly than it can be restored. This makes preservation and conservation urgent priorities. But it does not mean we should not still invest in restoring degraded urban land, where resources are available. An example of this is the newly evolving area of urban rewilding. Among a host of other benefits, rewilding can help to restore functional urban ecosystems and waterways, and can create wildlife corridors within urban areas that provide sustainable homes for rich biodiversity. It can also expand natural habitat, improve environmental conditions, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources in urban areas.
The COP15 on the Convention on Biological Diversity and the New Urban Agenda represent significant milestones in efforts to preserve, conserve, restore, and re-create nature in and around cities. Nature-based solutions must be integrated into urban planning and the decision-making processes, and the benefits of ecosystems carefully considered and balanced with other potentially competing land uses.