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EU funding can multiply the benefits of green infrastructure in regions and cities  
Restoring natural habitats reduces disaster risk and improves citizens' wellbeing

Preserving Europe's natural capital and restoring nature to urban environment can improve citizens' wellbeing and health, help adapting to the climate change and reduce the risk of natural disasters such as flooding in Europe's regions and cities. Nature based solutions are also essential to implementing EU's nature directives. On 29 May, various EU regions and cities that showcased their solutions in the context of the Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) highlighted the importance of solid EU funding and cross-border cooperation.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), opened the seminar, which was organised jointly by the CoR and European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) with the support of ERRIN and ICLEI. He urged for an ambitious EU budget to provide cities and regions with adequate resources to drive forward research and innovation.

"It's time now to scale-up investment and innovation, to expand green infrastructure using our natural resources as a first line of defence to cut emissions and protect biodiversity. The change we need will happen in our cities, regions, towns and villages. However, they cannot deliver without investment. This is why though welcoming the proposed increase in investment in research and innovation in the next EU budget, I am extremely concerned about the 10% cut to cohesion policy", President Lambertz said.

Nature-based solutions for urban regeneration and climate and water resilience have been funded with over 130 million euros from the Horizon 2020 programme in 2016-2017. The benefits are multiple: benefits: for example, green roofs are not only attractive but boost biodiversity and improve isolation. During the Knowledge Exchange Platform seminar, CoR members presented case studies from their regions and cities and exchanged views with European Commission representatives, including DG RTD Deputy Director-General Patrick Child .

Roby Biwer (LU/PES), Member of Bettembourg Municipal Council, explained that municipalities in Luxembourg have joined their forces in the field of nature conservation policy. The consortium called Sicona is working notably on the areas of flood management, protection of natural forest reserves, structuring landscape and educational work. Different projects have received funding from EU's Life programme, though they are mainly funded by local authorities. "In a small country it is important to look for synergies to multiply resources", Mr Biwer pointed out.

Meanwhile the Novara province in Italy's Piedmont Region is cooperating with the bordering Ticino canton in Switzerland in the framework of Interreg programme Slowmove . Matteo Besozzi (IT/PES), President of the Province of Novara, explained that by developing waterways, cycling paths and other alternative modes of transport the programme aims to reduce pollution and promote sustainable and green tourism. In the Green Chemistry and Advanced Materials sector, Piedmont is supporting the competitiveness and the development of regional companies via CGreen , an association grouping SMEs, big companies, universities and research centres.

With one third of the Netherlands lying below sea-level, local and regional authorities need to deal constantly with water management and flood protection. André van de Nadort (NL/PES), Mayor of the Municipality of Weststellingwerf, presented the Wolvega-Zuid redevelopment project in Southern Friesland which restores natural habitat, creates recreational areas for citizens and provides new means for retaining, storing and draining rain water in an area of 90 hectares.

Following initiatives that have received funding from EU's LIFE+ or Horizon 2020 programmes were also presented:

Scalluvia (LIFE+): aims to improve 90 hectares of alluvial forests in the Polders of Kruibeke to prevent flooding and restore natural habitats (Antwerp, Belgium).

Grow Green (H2020) is a partnership for greener cities to increase liveability, sustainability and business opportunities. Formal partners are Manchester (UK), Valencia (Spain), Wroclaw (Poland), Wuhan (China), Brest (France), Modena (Italy) and Zadar (Croatia)

Urban GreenUP (H2020) aims at developing, applying and validating a methodology for Renaturing Urban Plans to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve air quality and water management and increase the sustainability of our cities through innovative nature-based solutions. Three runner cities are Liverpool (UK), Valladolid (Spain) and Izmir (Turkey) with five more follower cities around the world.

Green4Grey (LIFE+): developing green and blue infrastructure for grey peri-urban landscapes in the 'Flemish belt' around Brussels and in the peri-urban area of Hasselt-Genk (Belgium).

Naturvation (H2020): NATure-based URban innoVATION is a 4-year project involving 14 institutions across Europe in the fields of urban development, geography, innovation studies and economics.

Gestire 2020 (LIFE+): ensuring the biodiversity in the Lombardy Region and raising awareness on Natura 2000 sites.

The Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) is a concept jointly developed by the European Committee of the Regions and DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission. It is aimed at presenting new R&I solutions, innovative products and best practices in response to societal challenges facing the regions and cities of Europe. In 2018, the KEP is addressing the themes of Nature based solutions and Cultural heritage.


Lauri Ouvinen

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