Wetlands – Nurturing communities and sustaining urban life

Valuing urban wetlands and human well-being

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40% of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands.

Wetlands play a significant role in supporting ecosystems and biodiversity, and they are deeply connected to human well-being. Although they cover only around 6 percent of the earth’s land surface, 40 percent of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands; and about one in eight people on earth depend on wetlands for their livelihoods (United Nations, 2024). Despite the benefits for both the environment and communities, wetlands face critical threats due to anthropogenic influences and are the planet’s most threatened ecosystem. This World Wetlands Day is an opportunity to recognize the value of wetlands and to advocate for better conservation efforts.

Critical to environmental sustainability, wetlands sequester more carbon than any other ecosystem (NOAA, 2023), thereby mitigating climate change. They also buffer against climate change impacts and provide resilience against extreme weather events such as storm surges and flooding. Furthermore, they serve as vital habitats for diverse species, supporting fish, reptiles, migratory birds, and mammals.

Wetlands are essential for key municipal functions, naturally purifying water, controlling floods and supplying sustainable fresh water. They foster economic and livelihood activities like tourism, fisheries, and agriculture, contributing to the overall prosperity of communities around the globe. Based on their central life-sustaining role for so many communities, wetlands are cherished by communities worldwide, enhancing social well-being, offering recreational opportunities, holding deep cultural and spiritual significance, and fostering community well-being and resilience.

Despite their myriad benefits, these valuable ecosystems are under siege from pollution and habitat loss from land use change. In the last five decades, over 35% of wetlands have been lost, significantly jeopardizing the ecosystem services and benefits for plants, animals, and human communities. With urban populations expected to grow from 55% (current) to 68% by 2050, wetland ecosystems are considered the most threatened ecosystem (Ramsar. 2021).

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Wetlands are essential for key municipal functions, naturally purifying water, controlling floods and supplying sustainable fresh water.

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There is an urgent need for drastic conservation efforts to protect these valuable ecosystems. 

For cities and regions, recognizing the relevance of wetlands in urban and environmental planning is paramount. Integrating wetland management goals into municipal planning, policies, and decision-making processes is necessary for sustainable development.

In 2023, CitiesWithNature partnered with the Ramsar Convention, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and ICLEI CBC to develop a poster and fact sheet on the value of wetlands for cities. These resources shed light on the functional benefits of wetlands in terms of water resources, climate regulation, livelihoods and poverty reduction, healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, job creation and upskilling, and culture, recreation and education. The poster intricately illustrates these processes, for example, how wetlands support urban heat mitigation by cooling surrounding areas and providing valuable spaces that bolster a region’s ability to adapt and withstand the adverse impacts of a changing climate. The fact sheet also provides useful recommendations on how cities can enhance and protect the benefits supplied by these vital ecosystems, such as conducting a stocktake of past and current wetlands management, developing integrated development plans and allocating appropriate budgets, and regulating land-use and development.

Given the critical role wetlands play in enhancing the quality of life for cities and communities, it is imperative that we recognize the value of wetlands, integrate wetlands protection into planning and policy agendas, and support active participation in conservation efforts and sustainable practices. World Wetlands Day serves as a call to action to secure a sustainable and resilient future for wetlands and the communities they support.

The UN 2023 Water Conference – formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) – took place in New York, from 22-24 March 2023, and was co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands, with the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) as Secretariat. To catalyze action, the Conference sought voluntary commitments from Parties to the Water Action Agenda, to urgently scale up action to address the water and sanitation crisis and ensure equitable access to water and sanitation for all (Sustainable Development Goal 6).

“This is more than a conference on water. It is a conference on today’s world seen from the perspective of its most important resource.”

– UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The Conference managed to generate more than 700 commitments aimed at driving transformation towards a water-secure world, which now form part of the Water Action Agenda, representing the global community’s resolve to address the water challenges through a more coordinated and results-driven approach.

CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature side-event

On 24 March, ICLEI through CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature, convened an online side-event as part of the conference titled, “CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature: Connecting Water and Nature to accelerate local and regional resilience”. The side-event took place in line with the UN Water 2030 Conference which was held in New York with the aim of accelerating action towards the achievement of SDG6.

The aim of this session was to: connect the agendas of water and nature for accelerated local and regional action, building momentum towards the achievement of SDG 6 & 11; provide a platform for cities and regions to connect and share best practices and lessons learnt on water and nature; and promote local and regional resilience actions from leading CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature representatives.

To this end, the session, moderated by Stefania Romano – Global Coordinator, CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature – showcased examples of the interconnections between biodiversity and water and of different biodiversity management issues and/or challenges which are relevant to the water agenda. These cases, summarized below, were presented by CitiesWithNature cities and RegionsWithNature regions and speakers from Regions4 and other subnational governments – as CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature are important platforms for showcasing best practices and case studies that can be scaled out to other cities and regions.

The sustainable management of the littoral zone of Lake Saint-Pierre in Quebec

Caroline Daguet

Conservation Biologist, Ministry of the Environment, Fight against Climate Change, Fauna and Parks

Government of Quebec

 

The littoral zone of Saint Pierre is located in the St Lawrence river in Quebec Province, in Canada. The site is a wetland of importance and both classified as a Ramsar site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The fertile land has historically been used for corn, and more recently soybean, agriculture which has resulted in drainage of the river, habitat loss, shore erosion, siltation, pollutant leaching as well as invasive alien species taking over. Given the extent of the threat to some species, a moratorium was placed on sport and commercial fishing of the yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in 2012.

The sustainable management project of the Lake Saint-Pierre littoral zone is aimed at establishing sustainable agriculture to protect the lake’s ecosystem. The project has led to the development of a floodplain intervention strategy that fosters sustainable and adapted agricultural practices while maintaining the fragile ecosystem of the lake and supporting the restoration of priority sites.

The success of the project can be attributed to the inclusion and collaboration between academia and government ministries and a commitment to involving farmers from the beginning of the project. The project not only focused on crop, soil and water studies, but also included wildlife research and monitoring projects focusing particularly on fish, birds and insects. In addition, the project focused on the governance of the ecosystem – concluding that it is critical to involve regional and local government authorities and indigenous communities in the process.

This case study forms part of the Regions4 database and can be viewed on the RegionsWithNature platform. Quebec has been involved in the database since its launch in 2016 and has been contributing to knowledge-sharing and learning from other subnational governments. Quebec is also a founding member of RegionsWithNature, officially launched in Montréal in Québec at the CBD COP15 in 2022.

Co-management maritime board of the Litoral del Baix Empordà

Flora Aguilera

Communications, Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda

Government of Catalonia

 

The Litoral Baix Empordà is a special protected marine area and site of community importance located in Costa Brava, a coastal region of Catalonia in north-eastern Spain. To facilitate co-management of the Litoral del Baix Empordà, the Government of Catalonia formed a board to create a permanent space of participation where proposals can be debated and concretized to improve the management and organization of maritime uses and activities in the area.

The governance model is particularly focused on making these uses and activities more compatible with the area’s natural heritage. Specifically, through stakeholder engagement, the model aims to ensure the conservation and improvement of the natural, cultural and landscape heritage of the area to both safeguard its socioeconomic activity and protect its cultural heritage.

The success of this model has been its bottom-up approach with stakeholders, such as the scientific community, civil society, government administrations, and all critical stakeholders from the blue economy sector. This has created a safe and trustworthy environment that has enabled addressing common problems and discrepancies, ultimately benefiting the protected area. As a result, environmental management has shifted from maintenance and prevention to an Action Plan that is collaboratively designed. Best practices based on this co-management project is also available on the Regions4 database and the RegionsWithNature website.

Water in San Antonio, Texas

Julia Murphy

Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer

City of San Antonio Office of Sustainability

 

San Antonio is a CitiesWithNature pioneer city located in Texas state, USA. As a coastal state, Texas is surrounded by water, but its inland cities experience significant water shortages. Moreover, the Texas Water Board’s projections show that the state’s water supply will decline by 18% between 2020 and 2070. One of the main causes of this decline is the depletion of aquifers from pumping for industrial use, occurring alongside land-use change as a result of agriculture and ranching.

Another concern for water supply across the state is population increase, which is expected to rise to 73% between 2020 and 2070. This will be exacerbated under future climate change, as the state’s already hot climate becomes even hotter, and the City of San Antonio in particular will experience reduced rainfall, more frequent and longer droughts, and reduced water and food security.

Beyond needing drinking water and water for household use, this resource is also of economic importance, given that the San Antonio River is a tourist attraction, with 11.5 million people visiting the San Antonio River Walk annually, providing 31,000 local jobs. San Antonians understand the value of water and its conservation has become entrenched in the city’s culture. Conservation – water that is not used – has been considered a water supply source since 1993.

However, water conservation is contingent on access to open land and the space required for rainfall to replenish aquifers. Since nearly 95% of land in Texas is privately owned, the regional and city governments have had to work closely with landowners to protect their land for water conservation through the Texas Agricultural Land Trust.

For the past 20 years, San Antonians have been voting to tax themselves through sales tax initiatives to conserve open land on usually privately owned land over the main aquifer to protect the water source. Water conservation is further achieved through education, incentives, and reasonable regulation. Read more about the statewide investment into water conservation that will be voted on later in 2023, here.

Towards water resilience in the City of Johannesburg, South Africa

Ernita van Wyk

Senior Professional Officer: Social-ecological Systems 

ICLEI Africa

 

Johannesburg is the biggest city in South Africa and also the economic hub of the country. As a result of the long-term decline of water sources in South Africa’s cities, and projected future climate change impacts, the City of Johannesburg has responded to its current water challenges by investing in two tools: The City of Johannesburg water security strategy (city-wide); and the City of Johannesburg pilot catchment management plan (smaller scale).

The COJ water security strategy

A water secure Johannesburg, as per the UN Water definition, would mean: The City of Johannesburg will have the capacity to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being and socio-economic development and preserving ecosystems.

To achieve this, the City government co-produced a strategy with relevant stakeholders to secure water supply; manage water demand and losses; ensure access to safe, reliable and equitable water services; promote resilient, liveable and sustainable urban water environment; manage the water system’s knowledge and data; nurture a water conscious society; and achieve coordinated good water governance. A working group was created under each theme, which has culminated in 67 actions for the City to take. A key part of the strategy’s approach has been to identify how different municipalities and sectors work with the same water source, to ensure effective cross-sectoral collaboration based on an integrated approach to water management.

The COJ pilot catchment management plan (Jukskei River)

The aim of this plan was to develop a tool that promotes integrated catchment planning and management practices, linking various catchment aspects in an integrated manner, at the sub-catchment scale. This includes integrating land use, river health and stormwater management for Johannesburg’s Jukskei River catchment. The Jukskei River catchment experiences similar issues to other urban catchments, including: a demand for settlement that leads to encroachment into river courses; drought; increased flooding; pollution; aging infrastructure; degrading open spaces; poor amenity value; and downstream obligations, given that the Jukskei catchment is located relatively upstream. 

The catchment management plan was based on the “water-sensitive city” paradigm, which states that municipal water services are provided against the backdrop of challenging environmental impacts. In response, the plan used a hydrological model to guide extensive stakeholder engagement. Through this process the City realized the significant opportunity for rainwater harvesting and the necessity to start making the catchment area more “spongy” through nature-based solutions – to improve the replenishment of aquifers but also to reduce flooding. Lessons learned and best practices can be found in this CitiesWithNature Catchment Management in Your City Guide, which was launched in this UN Water conference side-event. 

The side-event concluded around the topic of advocacy for water – a universally understood rallying point for mobilizing actions, particularly when climate change is not accepted as a point of advocacy. The panel also emphasized the need for a stronger connection between water and ecosystems, and connecting that with human health.

UN Biodiversity COP15 and Water

Water conservation is included in the newly adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), for example, Target 3 calls for the effective conservation and management of at least 30% of terrestrial and inland water, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, and Target 2 calls for the restoration of 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, ecological integrity and connectivity by 2030. 

Additionally, Target 12, which is specifically aimed as cities, calls for significant increases in the area and quality and connectivity of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces (referring to water bodies such as wetlands, rivers, mangroves etc) in urban and densely populated areas sustainably, by mainstreaming the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and ensure biodiversity-inclusive urban planning, enhancing native biodiversity, ecological connectivity and integrity, and improving human health and well-being and connection to nature and contributing to inclusive and sustainable urbanization and the provision of ecosystem functions and services. 

Water targets on the CitiesWithNature Action Platform

The CitiesWithNature Action Platform provides a platform where cities can make their commitments for nature (as referenced in Plan of Action action area 7) and set local  targets to contribute to the GBF targets within the framework of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of their country (NBSAP). The Action Platform is aligned with the 2030 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets, and provide several options for taking action and making commitments at the local level that relate to water such as “Restore and/or rehabilitate terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems”; or “Reduce water pollution by biocides and excess nutrients from domestic and industrial sources to protect ecosystems and people’s health.” 

The first-ever Pavilion for Subnational Governments and Cities at UN CBD’s COP15 not only created a home for the subnational and local governments constituency during the conference, but also offered a platform for the launches and announcements of a range of initiatives. During China Day on 13 December 2022, a new initiative titled “Biodiversity Charming City” – operated by ICLEI and China Environment News – announced six Chinese cities who achieved the Charming Cities title, namely: Chengdu, Kunming, Huzhou, Jiaxing, Nanyang, and Shenzhen. The initiative is developed to recognize those cities who have achieved remarkable progress and created best practices in biodiversity conservation at the local level in China. These six cities, which have all joined the CitiesWithNature partnership initiative, are currently implementing numerous biodiversity conservation projects, which are highlighted below.

Image: China Environment News, Chengdu Municipal Government

Chengdu

Chengdu City, the capital of Sichuan Province, is a mega-city with a permanent population of 21,192,000 with an urbanization rate of 79.5%. As an important high-tech industrial base in China, its GDP ranked 7th in the country in 2021. Chengdu is also one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world, and rich in endemic and rare species, hailed as the “Garden of Western China” and the “Land of Abundance”. The city has received several titles for its biodiversity, including National Model City for Environmental Protection (2005),  “National Forest City” (2007) and in 2020, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was granted the title of “National Advanced Collective in Scientific Popularization”

Case study: Fireflies nestling in Tiantai Mountain-lighting up ecological protection

Tiantai Mountain, 110 kilometers from downtown Chengdu, is home to more than 20 kinds of fireflies, with the leading number and species nationwide. Fireflies require very demanding conditions for survival – including high air and water quality. As a result, these insects are regarded as a visual biological indicator. To protect firefly resources and create a viewing base for eco-tourism, Chengdu City prioritizes science-based approaches to ecological conservation and sustainable development.

By 2021, with a forest coverage of nearly 95%, Tiantai Mountain greatly improved the conditions for fireflies to survive, attracting more and more “starry” fireflies to settle in Tiantai Mountain along with many wild animal species. Through the continued protection and cultivation of the area, Tiantai Mountain has been honored as a National Scenic Area, National Forest Park and National 4A-Class Tourist Attraction, strengthening the city’s tourism-based economy.

Image: China Environment News, Huzhou Municipal Government

Huzhou

Huzhou is an important ecological conservation area and ecological barrier in the Yangtze River Delta region, with a forest coverage rate of over 48% and a wetland area of 47,800 hectares. The city has formed a wildlife habitat protection system with seven national nature reserves at the core, supplemented by wetland parks and forest parks. In 2013, Huzhou was awarded the title of “National Forest City”, and in 2022, it was approved to set up a sustainable development innovation demonstration zone.

Case study: Anji County, Huzhou City – bamboo ecology and economy in the “Hometown of Chinese Bamboo”

As the “Hometown of Bamboo”, Anji County in Huzhou City attaches great importance to biodiversity conservation. It actively promotes the transformation of bamboo–broad-leaved forests and the practice of interplanting in bamboo forests, transforming moso bamboo species, and cultivating a vast bamboo sea to secure a habitat for wild animals. Simultaneously, it uses bamboo to sequester carbon and increase carbon sinks for sustainable development. With the advantage of rich bamboo forest resources, Huzhou City has established the world’s first moso bamboo forest carbon flux observation system in 2010. In 2016, Anji County developed and completed the “Methodology of Bamboo Forest Operation Carbon Sink Project” and the country’s first bamboo forest operation carbon sink Chinese Certified Emission Reduction (CCER) project. Anji County’s bamboo industry offers bamboo structural materials, decorative materials, daily necessities, fiber products, biological products, and bamboo wood machinery, as well as crafts and food made of bamboo shoots. In 2021, Anji bamboo industries raked in 4.14 billion yuan in total, creating nearly 30,000 job opportunities.

Image: China Environment News, Jiaxing Municipal Government

Jiaxing

As one of the important cities in the Yangtze River Delta, Jiaxing is home to 5.4 million permanent residents. In the past five years, Jiaxing has invested more than 16 billion yuan in ecological protection and environmental management. The city has more than 3,000 species, including more than 1,000 species of terrestrial vascular plants, 300 species of terrestrial vertebrates, 600 species of insects and more than 1,000 species of aquatic organisms. In 2019, Jiaxing was named the “National Water Ecological Civilization City”, and in 2021, it was approved as a national ecological civilization construction demonstration zone.

Case study: South Lake Park – underwater forest green corridor around the lake

Jiaxing’s South Lake is a water storage hub for major local rivers. In 2020, Jiaxing South Lake District created a pilot water ecological environment demonstration zone in Zhejiang Province, to solve the problems of turbid water bodies and fragile water ecosystems, kicking off the South Lake Ecological Restoration Project. As a result of significantly improved water quality, the transparency of the lake was enhanced and resurging submerged plants in the South Lake area – which had almost entirely disappeared – now cover an area of 1.48 square kilometers, accounting for 28.5% of the water area, and forming a green corridor around the lake.

Jiaxing City has built the “South Lake District Water Digital Support System”, which is the first successful application of using underwater acoustic measurement technology to ensure high-precision and all-terrain measurement of river networks in the plain. This enables the underwater measurement and monitoring of underwater topography of rivers and lakes in the South Lake District, projected visually, to support effective policy-making to solve underwater problems.

Image: China Environment News, Kunming Municipal Government

Kunming

Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan Province – the richest biodiverse region in China and a global biodiversity hotspot – and host city to the UN CBD COP15 Part 1. By the end of 2021, Kunming had a population of 8.5 million long-term residents, of which 6.84 million are urban residents, accounting for 80.5% of the permanent residents population. Kunming’s complex and diverse topography, numerous lakes and rivers, and sound hydrothermal conditions have fostered rich biodiversity. In 2013, Kunming was named the “National Forest City”, in 2009, the “National Garden City”. and in 2022, Kunming was named the “National Greening Advanced Group” by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

Case study: Nature-based solutions – biodiversity restoration of Dianchi Lake

Dianchi Lake is the biggest lake in Kunming, serving 64% of the city’s population and 77% of the total economy. Since the 1970s, due to the rapid development of industry and agriculture around the lake, reclamation of land from the lake, and population growth, Dianchi Lake has been severely polluted by sewage. Recently, the Kunming Municipal People’s Government has implemented the eco-environment restoration of the lake, to improve harmony between the people, city, lake and industry.

Kunming has made space for Dianchi lake by returning ponds, farmland and housing to the lake through 90 km of breakwaters. The city has also built an ecological belt, including lakeside wetland, ecological forest, and naturally restored lake wetlands, effectively improving the living environment of wild animals and plants, and greatly improving the biodiversity of Dianchi Lake. At present, the natural shoreline rate of Dianchi Lake has reached 89%, forming a basically closed ecological belt around Dianchi Lake.

Image: China Environment News, Nanyang Municipal Government

Nanyang

Nanyang City is the geographical and cultural center of China, and home to the Funiushan Global Geopark and Baotianman Biosphere Reserve. In 2018, Nanyang City was approved as a national forest city, a national model city for greening, and a national pilot city for water ecological civilization. In 2021, the case of “Conservation and Restoration of Water Sources in the Middle Route of the Danjiangkou South-to-North Water Diversion Project in Henan” was included among the “100+ Biodiversity Positive Practices and Actions around the World” by the UN. Finally, in 2022, Nanyang was rated as one of the first national pilot zones for ecological progress.

Case study: Ecological Restoration of Water Sources in the Middle Route of the Danjiangkou South-to-North Water Diversion Project in Henan

Henan Danjiang Wetland National Nature Reserve is one of the richest biodiverse areas in Nanyang and crucial to providing safe drinking water for nearly 79 million residents living in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Henan. However, the reservoir area of Danjiangkou Reservoir has a highly fragile ecological environment, with persistent challenges such as stony desertification of mountains, slope soil erosion, non-point source pollution of farmland and unsustainable use of wetlands. 

Over the past three years, degraded wetland of 4 million square meters at Danjiang Wetland National Nature Reserve has been restored, and over 6 million trees such as bamboo willow, dawn redwood, poplar, reed, and mulberry trees have been planted, which has vastly improved the wetland’s ecological environment. Numerous bird species have settled in the reserve, including the protected great bustard, golden eagle, and scaly-sided merganser species. The Danjiang Wetland has become the most important habitat and breeding place for birds in Henan Province and the most important place of transit for migrating birds in North China. This progress has further led to improved patrol, management and protection of the Reserve.

Image: China Environment News, Shenzhen Municipal Government

Shenzhen

Since its origin in 1979, Shenzhen has rapidly developed economically into a megacity with a permanent population of 17.68 million, a GDP of over 3 trillion yuan, and an urbanization rate of 100% in 2021. Shenzhen is both a mountainous and coastal city with diverse ecosystems and rich biological resources. In 2018, Shenzhen was approved to become an innovation demonstration zone for sustainable development, and in 2020, it was named the “National Model City for Ecological Progress”.

Case study:Public participation in the management of nature reserves: A case study of Futian Mangrove Ecological Park

The Shenzhen Futian Mangrove Ecological Park forms part of the coastal wetland ecosystem of Shenzhen Bay, creating a buffer zone between nature and the city for urban biodiversity protection. To protect natural ecosystems in the park, the city’s approach included mobilizing and educating the public, as well as improving public services. Ultimately, the Shenzhen Municipal Government is working towards a model characterized by government leadership and public participation in nature reserve management, with guidance from experts.

As a result of this approach, biodiversity in the park has increased – in particular, the 22 species of mangrove plants and species recorded on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Moreover, the ecological park creates opportunities for local and global exchanges and promotional activities to create awareness of the importance of the park. The marine forest restoration project of the ecological park was included among “Top 10 Typical Cases of “Nature-Based Solutions in China” by the Ministry of Natural Resources and IUCN.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on 2 February, in commemoration of the initial signing of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

This year, the theme is
“It’s time for wetlands restoration” linking two important biodiversity components - wetlands protection and ecosystem restoration.

Wetlands and restoration

Despite being the world’s most productive ecosystems and crucial to human well-being, wetlands continue to experience extremely high rates of decline and degradation: an estimated 35% of wetlands have been lost since the 1970s. To prevent further losses and secure the necessary ecosystem services that wetlands provide – such as water purification, climate change mitigation, food and building materials, and flood control – the restoration of these important inland water and coastal systems are urgently required.

Ecosystem restoration has increasingly become a priority for scientists, politicians, officials and environmental activists in recent years as a critical approach to curb biodiversity loss and promote resilience to climate change. As such, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a 10-year push to halt and reverse the decline of the natural world, was launched in 2020. Through this year’s Wetlands Day theme, the UN Convention on Wetlands is calling for global restoration efforts to include the rehabilitation of wetlands.

Restoration acknowledged at high-level UN meetings

In 2022, urban wetlands were recognized as critical to human well-being at the UN Convention on Wetlands’ 14th Conference of Parties. During Ramsar COP14 in Geneva and Wuhan, Parties were called upon to take appropriate and urgent measures to achieve the goal of halting and reversing the loss of wetlands globally. 

Also in 2022, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of Parties in Montreal and Kunming witnessed the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which includes under its Target 2 an aim that, by 2030, at least 30% of areas of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems are under effective restoration.

It’s time for restoration of urban wetlands​

The loss of wetlands noted above is particularly prevalent in cities. Urban wetlands are vulnerable to the adverse impacts of urbanization as they tend to be undervalued and therefore often converted or used as dumping grounds. However, while the challenges of urbanization to wetland health are profound, so too are the opportunities for wetland restoration. 

As part of the newly adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework mentioned above, Parties adopted the decision titled Engagement with subnational governments, cities and other local authorities to enhance implementation of the post-2020 Global biodiversity framework and its accompanying revised Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities (2022-2030), which recognizes the vital role that cities and local authorities play in the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework – including by restoring urban wetlands and thereby contributing to Target 2. On the CitiesWithNature Action Platform, the CBD-recognized platform for cities to use for monitoring and reporting on their actions for biodiversity, the restoration and protection of urban wetlands can be recorded by Cities under Commitment 1 titled “Protect, Connect and Restore Ecosystems” and specified under two actions: “a) Restore and/or rehabilitate terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal ecosystems” and “(b) Increase protected areas.” 

Globally, cities are increasingly acknowledging the importance of protecting and restoring wetland areas. To acknowledge cities’ significant contributions to take care of valuable urban wetlands, the UN Convention on Wetlands established the Wetland City Accreditation Scheme.

Wetland City Accreditation – Encouraging a positive relationship with urban wetlands

The Wetland City Accreditation (WCA) scheme was launched in 2015 – during the Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands  COP12 in Uruguay – with the aim of improving local authority or authorities’ work in conservation and wise use of wetlands. The accredited Wetland Cities are intended to act as models for the study, demonstration and promotion of the Convention on Wetlands’ objectives, approaches, principles and resolutions. Cities become candidates for accreditation by applying to the official call for applications posted here. 

The WCA scheme aims to encourage cities in close proximity to and dependent on wetlands, especially Wetlands of International Importance, to highlight and strengthen a positive relationship with these valuable ecosystems, for example through increased public awareness of their importance and participation in municipal planning and decision-making. 

During the Ramsar COP14 in 2022, the second triennium Wetland City Accreditation Awards Ceremony took place to celebrate the accreditation of 25 new cities (listed below). These cities have joined the already existing 18 accredited Wetland cities that have since been tasked to maintain their accreditation.

Wetland City Network and Roundtable of Wetland City Mayors – sharing best practices among decision makers

To further promote the conservation and wise use of urban and peri-urban wetlands, and to share city-level experiences among city leadership, the Roundtable of Wetland City Mayors first took place in 2019, where a Wetland City Network was established to continue the work of the accreditation scheme and enable cities to achieve more and learn from other Wetland Cities. The 2nd Roundtable of Wetland City Mayors will take place in June 2023, in Amiens, France.

The 2022 accredited cities are:

Sackville (Canada)

Sackville was built on/adjacent to saltwater marshes which had been dyked and drained in the 1600s to become freshwater “dykelands”. Since then the Town has undertaken many projects to restore, protect and utilize them, including creating legal restrictions which are supported by laws at all levels of government. The wetlands include the internationally recognized Sackville Waterfowl Park.

Hefei (China)

Hefei has 118,200 ha of wetland area, with a wetland protection rate of 76%. The city has invested in the protection of the Chao Lake area, protecting 10 wetlands covering a total of 100 square kilometers. This has significantly contributed to aquatic ecosystems, water security and quality, and wildlife habitat – up to 562 wetland plant species and 303 bird species. The City’s strategies include nine wetland education centers, wetland protection volunteers and science popularization to enhance residents’ relationship with the wetlands.

Jining (China)

Jining City is known as the “Canal Capital” for its abundant water resources, booming business activities and cultural exchanges. Jining wetlands cover an area of 158,800 ha, with the wetland protection rate reaching 77.38% as a result of the government’s commitment to wetland protection. Nansi Lake and the Grand Canal – designated as a Ramsar site in 2018 – attract millions of migratory birds every year.

Liangping (China)

Lianping’s rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and small wetlands are protected by the City’s strategy of “comprehensive water management, wetlands nourishing the city”, and its adopted model of “small and micro wetlands construction with ecological conservation, pollution control, organic industry, and natural education”, to benefit the lives of communities surrounding the urban wetlands. 

Nanchang (China)

Nanchang has a wetland area of 153,000 ha, which provides a major habitat for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl globally, and an important wintering place for Siberian white cranes. The City has protected 68% of its wetlands and restored more than 8,000 ha, enhancing the ecological functions of wetlands, the urban living environment, and the socio-economic development of the city.

Panjin (China)

Panjin’s wetland covers 249,600 ha, accounting for 60.8% of the whole area. Its wetland protection rate is 54.6%, with 124,000 ha of wetlands restored since 2018 – benefiting the value of rice, river crab, tourism and other wetland industries. Panjin’s coastal wetlands are home to 477 species of wild animals – including 78 species of national key protected wild animals – and a stopover or destination for millions of migratory birds, including the Saunder’s Gull, Red-crowned Crane and Western Pacific Spotted Seal.

Wuhan (China)

In Wuhan the Yangtze River (the third largest river in the world) meets its largest tributary, the Han River. Endowed with 165 lakes and 166 rivers, Wuhan has abundant wetland resources and a wetland rate of 18.9%. Ecological restoration is secured through legislative protection, ecological compensation, conversion of fish ponds to wetlands, restoration of degraded wetlands, and public participation.

Yangcheng (China)

Yancheng has two Wetlands of International Importance and one coastal wetland World Natural Heritage Site. By 2021, the protection rate of natural wetlands in the city has reached 62%, and the “Yancheng Yellow Sea Wetland ecological restoration case” is renowned for its global nature protection in densely populated and economically developed areas.

Belval-en-Argonne (France)

The Belval-en-Argonne municipality joined forces with several nature protection associations (e.g. Birdlife France), to purchase the ponds of Belval-en-Argonne, which were designated a Regional Nature Reserve in July 2012. Major restoration work on the dykes and sluices has been carried out to better manage the water levels, and a large inventory of ponds and amphibians to create awareness of the site’s biodiversity has been created.

Seltz (France)

Seltz is a European town in the northern Bas-Rhin Department, with a population of 3,400 and home to the Seltz nature reserve: the Sauer Delta. This 486 ha site is remarkable for its botanical richness (including willow beds, mudflats and reedbeds), hydrology and landscapes, as well as ornithology.

Surabaya (Indonesia)

As a result of Surabaya City’s low elevation, many estuarine mangrove and wetland ecosystems have formed, amounting to 1.722,68 km2 of wetland ecosystem (76.51% of the total area 2.251,62 km2). These wetlands are important for bird species, particularly migratory seabirds and shorebirds in the East Asia-Australia Fly Away. Urban planning initiatives, in cooperation with community associations, are addressing challenges such as river and coastal pollution, seasonal water scarcity and urban flooding.

Tanjung Jabung Timur (Indonesia)

Tanjung Jabung is located on the east coast, with its west coast stretching across 12 km of the Sungai Berbak river mouth, and 15 km south of Tanjung Jabung. The city’s mangrove forest fringe ranges from 200-500 m wide and consists mainly of Avicennia marina and Rhizophora species with about 10 species of large waterbirds, including milky storks.

Bandar Khamir (Islamic Republic of Iran)

With the longest wetland coastline in Iran, Bandar Khamir has started a widespread popular movement – comprising events, festivals, educational workshops and numerous learning centers – in recent years for the wise use of the wetland. As a result of increased awareness and education of the value of the wetland and its ecosystem services, the participation and involvement of different groups to protect the wetland has increased.

Varzaneh (Islamic Republic of Iran)

Varzaneh city is located 20 km from Gavkhouni International Wetland which is supplied by the ZayandehRud river that passes through the city. Because of the hot climate of the city, the river and wetlands have benefited residents’ livelihoods, including agriculture, animal husbandry and ecotourism.

Al-Chibayish (Iraq)

Many projects implemented in Al-Chibayish city have contributed to the revival and sustainability of its wetlands. These wetlands support infrastructure and basic services for the local population and economy, in addition to its unique scenery and ecotourism services. The marshes also support a unique cultural heritage that is characterized by its residents and their traditional handicrafts, landscapes and biodiversity – such as buffalo and wild birds.

Izumi (Japan)

Izumi City is known as the largest wintering site of cranes in Japan, where more than 10,000 hooded and 2,000-3,000 white-naped cranes migrate every winter. The wintering habitat comprises mainly rice paddies which have been protected by Japanese policies against development. One of the city’s pillars of city planning includes “A city where human happiness and environmental conservation go together”.

Niigata (Japan)

Niigata recognizes the multifaceted benefits of wetlands near the city and involves their citizens in protection activities – particularly for fisheries – such as including school children for environmental education. The Niigata community has a relationship with the waterfowl, such as swans, that roost in the wetlands at night and feed in the rice paddies of the city area during the day.

Ifrane (Morocco)

Ifrane is located in the heart of the Atlas Cedar Biosphere Reserve, and considered to be the “ecological capital” of the Kingdom of Morocco. The City is working to conserve its urban wetland ecosystems – Lake Zerrouka, the Aïn Vittel springs and Oued Tizguite – through many national regulatory measures and instruments for the protection of wetlands. With its partners, Ifrane Province is a pioneer in the restoration of wetlands by piloting the “Lake Dayet Aoua restoration project”.

Gochang (Republic of Korea)

There are two Ramsar wetlands in Gochang, both protected under the National Wetlands Protection Act. Gochang has restored the paddy fields since 2017, and restored the brackish water zone between 2016 to 2020. The area is surrounded by ecotourism activities, such as the open market, and educational programs that are creating awareness among the communities of the importance of restoring wetlands. 

Seocheon (Republic of Korea)

The Seocheon Getbol wetland reserve – a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site – is a designated migratory route for migratory birds between East Asia and Oceania, and home to 19 endemic species and three endangered invertebrates, supporting 100 species of waterfowl. The Seocheon County Ordinance operates the Wetlands Protection Committee, a public-private joint organization, to systematically preserve and manage wetlands through monitoring, restoration and waste collection.

Seogwipo (Republic of Korea)

The Mulyeongari Oreum Wetland in Seogwipo City is home to 15 endangered species of living organisms. Ecological specialists and local residents in Seogwipo City perform extensive ecological monitoring on a regular basis to protect the Mulyeongari Oreum Wetland.

Kigali (Rwanda)

The Kigali Wetlands have been threatened by human activities such as agriculture, human settlements, commercial and industrial activities – decreasing their capacity for flood and pollution abatement. In response, the City is implementing strategic ecological rehabilitation solutions such as the Kigali wetland masterplan, which supports the efficient and sustainable management and use of wetlands. As a result, all business activities inside wetlands were evacuated; Nyandungu wetland (121.7ha) was transformed into a recreational eco-park; and a study to rehabilitate five wetlands that cover 480 ha has been conducted to contribute to its Vision 2050 of developing a Green City.

Cape Town (South Africa)

Cape Town is a coastal city with numerous wetlands and is a recognized global biodiversity hotspot. The City aims to mitigate wetland damage through innovative policies and plans, wetland offset projects, best-practice wetland management and restoration, people and conservation programmes, skills development, job creation, plus the Mayor’s priority water quality programme addressing impacts to and rehabilitation of the City’s larger wetlands.

Valencia (Spain)

L’Albufera de València is a wetland culturally linked to the community’s heritage, including traditional fishing and rice cultivation. Since the 1970s, Valencia’s City Council has played a fundamental role in the site protection and planning, which has resulted in the lagoon and coastal forest being declared a Natural Park in 1986. In 1982, the Devesa-Albufera Municipal Service was created, responsible for the development of plans and projects for the conservation and restoration of the wetland.

Sri Songkhram District (Thailand)

The Songkhram River has a basin of 6,473.27 km2 and is an important tributary of the Mekong River. About 54.2% of the overall Songkhram Basin may be classified as “wetlands”, which are significant as a capture fishery providing seasonal employment, income and food to thousands of households. Other products are also sourced from the wetlands by local residents (e.g. mushrooms, bamboo shoots, wild vegetables and reeds). The wetlands, declared as a Ramsar site, are protected as a “community forest” on both sides of the Songkhram River, set up by Thailand’s Royal Forest Department.

ICLEI’s role as partner to the Convention

The Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) governs the Wetland City Accreditation Scheme. This committee reviews the Wetland City Accreditation applications from candidate cities and reports its decision to the Standing Committee of the Convention. ICLEI, along the Convention on Wetlands’ International Organization Partners, promotes the Wetland City Accreditation Scheme and local efforts to gain and maintain its branding. Through ICLEI’s city networks and CitiesWithNature platform, it is well positioned to promote the Wetland City Accreditation brand. During the second triennium from 2019 until 2022, ICLEI has been serving as Co-chair of the IAC, 25 more cities were accredited and they received their award during an Award Ceremony at COP14 in Geneva in 2022.

In the build-up to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 – which will take place in Montreal from 7-19 December 2022 – ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center, in collaboration with ICLEI’s regional offices, provided capacity-building webinars to demonstrate uploading actions and commitments to the CitiesWithNature Action Platform, recognized in the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2021-2030). 

 

The road to COP 15 is a crucial moment for local and subnational governments to demonstrate their commitments to actions that will contribute to the successful implementation of the new global biodiversity framework (GBF) and its targets. As a result, the CitiesWithNature Action Platform webinars not only trained cities across the world on using the platform, but also explained the importance of their engagement and participation in the platform in the build-up to COP15. 

The CitiesWithNature team that served as recurring speakers in all the webinars are:

 

Ingrid Coetzee
Director Biodiversity, Nature & Health, ICLEI Africa

 

Stefania Romano
Senior Professional Officer – Global CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature Coordinator: Recruitment and Advocacy

 

Willemien Calitz
Communications Officer

 

Jade Sullivan
Professional Officer: Biodiversity, Nature & Health

 

USA RO Speakers:

Calyn Hart
Program Officer, ICLEI USA

Southeast Asia RO Speakers:

Russel James Andrade
Biodiversity Focal for ICLEI Southeast Asia; Project Assistant

Victorino Aquitania
Regional Director ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability Southeast Asia Secretariat

Dr. Rajan Chedambath
Director: The Kochi Municipal Corporation and the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development
Puerto Princesa City

Dr. Lena Chan
Senior Director of the International Biodiversity Conservation Division, National Parks Board (NParks) of Singapore

SAMS & MECS SAMS (Portuguese)

Speakers:

Marília Israel de Azevedo Borges
Biodiversity Analyst at ICLEI South America

Rodrigo Corradi
Deputy Executive Secretary at ICLEI South America

Oliver Hillel
Programme Officer at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity

Bianca Cantoni Coutinho
Advocacy Officer at ICLEI South America

Jaime Holguin
Representative of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF)

Luciano Paes
Secretary of Climate of Niterói

Gabriel Neves
Municipal Secretary of Green, Environment and Sustainable Development
Municipal Government of Campinas

Leta Vieira
Technical Regional Manager: Low-Carbon, Resilience, Biodiversity and Circular Development, ICLEI



ICLEI SAMS (MECS)

Speakers:

Ivana Del Río
Technical Secretariat - ICLEI Mexico

Maria Mejia
Lead - BiodiverCities by 2030 Initiative at Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos

Óscar Figueredo
Bucaramanga Metropolitan Area, Colombia

Paulina Soto
Director of Programmes and Projects

Sergio Aranguren
Biodiversity Coordinator, ICLEI

Braulio Diaz
Institutional Relations and Advocacy Regional Manager, ICLEI

Oceania RO Speakers:

Steve Gawler
Regional Director ICLEI Oceania

Cr Amanda Stone
Councillor, Yarra City Council, Australia, ICLEI Global Executive Committee Member and ICLEI Oceania Regional Executive Committee

Helaine Stanley
Program Advisor CWN Academy

Nadine Gaskell
Biodiversity Coordinator, City of Knox

European RO Speakers:

Shreya Utkarsh
Officer: Sustainable Resources, Climate and Resilience

Gillian Dick
Spatial Planning Manager – Research & Development Development Plan Group Neighbourhoods, Regeneration & Sustainability, Glasgow City Council

Marta Mansanet Cánovas
Policy Officer: European Committee of the Regions

Holger Robrecht
Deputy Regional Director of Sustainable Resources, Climate and Resilience


Africa RO Speakers:

Bronwen Griffiths
Head: Sustainable Partnerships & Financing, Spatial Planning & Environment: Environmental Management Department, City of Cape Town

Alex Kivumbi
Principal Community Development Officer, Makindye Ssabagabo, Uganda

MEDIA RELEASE

ICLEI, together with its partners, invites subnational and local governments to Montréal, Québec, Canada for the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities and its associated Pavilion. The Summit, an official parallel event to the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the CBD, will be co-hosted with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and Regions4, along with the host Government of Québec and the City of Montréal. Both the Summit and the Pavilion are financially supported by the Government of Québec as main sponsor.

For the first time at a CBD COP, there will be a dedicated Pavilion, focusing on subnational government and city actions and opportunities. This clearly demonstrates an elevated recognition and the biodiversity community of the significant contributions of local and subnational governments towards the implementation of the global biodiversity framework (GBF).

Image provided by: Ezjay/Shutterstock.com

"It is with great pride that we welcome you to Québec for the 15th Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity. Through its role as coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Subnational Governments and Biodiversity together with Regions4, Québec is committed to doing everything possible to promote the adoption of an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework which, we hope, will pave the way for a new era of collaboration. We invite subnational you to participate in large numbers in the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities and to make your voice heard at this historic meeting."

The Summit and Pavilion constitute an unprecedented global milestone to welcome significantly strengthened contributions from subnational governments and cities to the new post-2020 GBF. The Summit, focused on taking action for biodiversity, will be held on 11th and 12th December 2022 at the Palais des Congrès (blue zone) and will center around three elements: Engage, Influence and Act.

The Pavilion program will include multiple events, from 8th to 18th December, during COP 15.

“Cities are essential leaders in the fight against climate change, the protection of biodiversity and the adaptability of our territories. They already experience the impact of environmental issues, they understand the major challenges that lie ahead, as well as the solutions to be implemented. As the mayor of Montréal and ICLEI global ambassador for local biodiversity, I am very happy to welcome the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments & Cities: Taking Action for Biodiversity.”

This 7th Summit will provide a unique opportunity to address the targets and actions of the new GBF such as reducing threats to biodiversity, meeting people’s needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing of biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as implementing local and regional tools and solutions. The Summit is dedicated to taking action and making commitments, with subnational governments and cities sharing and demonstrating inspirational biodiversity initiatives, solutions and achievements, and pivoting combined multi-level ambitions and engagement into measurable actions. The outcome of this historic, action-oriented Summit will be presented formally by the hosts to the CBD COP 15 High Level Segment as a united message from the subnational constituency.

“As we approach COP 15 in Montréal this December, I am encouraged by the decision-makers of such authorities who are transforming the ways in which our economies affect biodiversity and move us towards whole-of-government, whole-of-society, approaches to ensure a sustainable future."

The Summit will announce, solidify and celebrate subnational and local actions for the protection, restoration and enhancement of biodiversity across the world, actions that reconnect communities with nature for a more sustainable future. It will present new projects and multilateral announcements, and profile initiatives such as the global CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature partnership, which provide a platform for local and subnational governments to commit and share their ambitious actions and initiatives for and with nature, in measurable ways.

“Our planet can no longer support the inefficient misuse and management of our natural resources. The loss of biodiversity across the globe is inextricably linked to the acceleration of the climate crisis and the nature-based systems we rely on to help sustain our communities and way of life. Local governments will no longer tolerate being forced to confront this climate emergency alone. We should join CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature to convene and share our actions across all levels of government. And we should show the leadership needed in this now-or-never moment to safeguard a biodiverse, 1.5-degree world where all life can thrive. Together, we welcome a strong framework coming out of the UN Biodiversity COP15 conference to give us the momentum and guidance to act.”

The 7th Global Summit is convened by ICLEI, and co-hosted with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and Regions4, along with the host Government of Québec and the City of Montréal.  This milestone Summit and Pavilion are supported by the Government of Québec, as main sponsor, and will welcome Parties, subnational governments, cities, their leaders, networks and partners from across the world to contribute and actively participate – in person or virtually.

COP 15 is hosted by the Government of China, and as the province of Yunnan, Kunming City, and China Environment News, in coordination with ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China, have contributed to the COP since its first phase, their role is acknowledged as supporting institutions to the 7th Summit.

Summit registrations are open at cbc.iclei.org or email biodiversity@iclei.org for more information.

Images provided by: Ville de Montréal

On the road to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 – which will take place in Montreal from 7-19 December 2022 – ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center, in collaboration with ICLEI’s regional offices, is providing capacity-building webinars to demonstrate uploading actions and commitments to the CitiesWithNature Action Platform, recognized in the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2021-2030). 

By enabling and supporting local and subnational governments to achieve the global nature goals and their commitments for nature, the Action Platform is intended to align with, and feed into, the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and National Reports to the CBD of countries that have ratified the Convention. 

With COP 15 around the corner, it is a crucial moment for local and subnational governments to demonstrate their commitments to actions that will contribute to the successful implementation of the new global biodiversity framework (GBF) and its targets. As a result, our Action Platform demonstration webinars aim to assist cities worldwide with using the tool as optimally as possible.

We have set up a range of webinars by region, as shown in the table below. For more information, contact the ICLEI Regional Officer of your region, as indicated in the table.

 We welcome you to participate in the webinar and join the concerted efforts for living in harmony with nature. 

USA RO Kale Roberts - kale.roberts@iclei.org
Calyn Hart - calyn.hart@iclei.org
Anne Marie Cleary Rauker - am.clearyrauker@iclei.org

October 26, 5.30 - 7.00pm SAST time | 11.30am (New York time)

Southeast Asia RO Russel James Andrade - russel.andrade@iclei.org

October 21, 8.30am (CEST time) | 2.30pm (Manila time)

South Asia Monalisa Sen - monalisa.sen@iclei.org
SAMS & MECS SAMS, Brazilian Municipalities

Bráulio Dias - braulio.diaz@iclei.org
Leta Vieira - leta.vieira@iclei.org
Marília Israel - marilia.israel@iclei.org
Bianca Cantoni - bianca.cantoni@iclei.org

One webinar with SAMS - only Portuguese speaking municipalities

October 13, 3 - 4.30pm CEST | 10 - 11.30am (Brasília)



SAMS and MECS for Spanish speaking municipalities Ecuador, Colombia, Amazonian areas, Perú, Mexico

Bráulio Dias - braulio.diaz@iclei.org
Leta Vieira - leta.vieira@iclei.org
Marília Israel de Azevedo Borges - marilia.israel@iclei.org
Bianca Cantoni - bianca.cantoni@iclei.org
Sergio Aranguren - sergio.aranguren@iclei.org
Ivana del Río Benítez - ivana.del.rio@iclei.org

October 25, 4.00 - 5.30pm CEST time | 10 - 11.30am (Mexico time)

Oceania RO Steve Gawler - steve.gawler@iclei.org

October 19, 7.30 am SAST time | 4.30 pm AEST

European RO Shreya Utkarsh - shreya.utkarsh@iclei.org
Alice Reil - alice.reil@iclei.org

October 18, 2 - 3:30pm CET


Canada RO Megan Meaney - megan.meaney@iclei.org
Anne Marie - anne-marie.legault@iclei.org

November 30, in English 7 - 8.30pm SAST


November 29, in French 7 - 8.30pm SAST

Africa RO Tarryn Quayle - tarryn.quayle@iclei.org
Uganda, Kisumu (Kenya), Ghana (Cape Coast City) and Quelimane and Nacala in Mozambique

Paul Currie - paul.currie@iclei.org
Madagascar

Kate Strachan - kate.strachan@iclei.org
Mozambique

Nelson de Lamare - nelson.de.lamare@iclei.org
Senegal and Burkina Faso

Ernita Van Wyk - ernita.van.wyk@iclei.org
Tanzania

Vanessa Tshite - vanessa.tshite@iclei.org
Bongiwe Simka - bongiwe.simka@iclei.org
Sierra Leone

November 2, 2 - 3.30pm SAST time

East Asia RO Shu Zhu - Shu.Zhu@iclei.org
Ge Liu - ge.liu@iclei.org
Japan Togo Uchida - togo.uchida@iclei.org
Tomoya Taniguchi - Tomoya.Taniguchi@iclei.org

Have you ever heard of a “Blue Flag beach”? Of course you have! The iconic Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognized voluntary awards for beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. 

We are proud to announce that Blue Flag has joined the global CitiesWithNature partnership initiative! 

Image provided by: Blue Flag

Coastal zones are critical areas, not only to provide livelihoods and recreational opportunities, but because they serve as immensely important buffer areas to sea level rise, deadly floods and storm surges, while also providing essential, safe havens and breeding grounds for many fish species and countless other organisms, plants and animals. Blue Flag, founded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), will actively work with CitiesWithNature to promote nature conservation activities across its networks.

“We know that we can achieve more together than separately and will strive to make the most of our collaboration as we implement solutions for people and the planet.”

To qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained. The beach must comply with laws and/or regulations pertaining to issues related to coastal zone planning, environmental management, wastewater management, environmental conservation, and others in order to receive and maintain Blue Flag status.

 

With this awards system, the mission of Blue Flag is to promote sustainability in the tourism sector, through environmental education, environmental protection and other sustainable development practices. As a result of Blue Flag and its partnerships, more than 5,000 beaches, marinas and eco-tourism boats are concretely contributing to the sustainable development goals. Blue Flag also campaigns against disparity, inequality, unemployment, health threats, depletion of natural resources, environmental threats, pollution and general environmental degradation. Find out more about Blue Flag’s efforts to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals  here

 

In addition to its role in maintaining coastal ecosystems, FEE is also a recognized world leader within the fields of Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development. Through its three youth-focused educational programs, Eco-Schools, Learning about Forests (LEAF), and Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE), the organization uses a solutions-based pedagogical approach to empower young people to create a more environmentally conscious world. 

 

As an international umbrella organization, FEE has over 100 members in 81 countries and has its Global Secretariat in Copenhagen, Denmark. Through this partnership, CitiesWithNature and Blue Flag will work towards bringing even more unique and tailor-made technical services, reporting mechanisms, capacity-building and funding opportunities – specifically in the field of coastal management – to our collective Blue Flag and CitiesWitNature cities and towns globally. 

“We are so pleased to welcome the highly respected global Blue Flag programme into the CitiesWithNature initiative, demonstrating our shared commitment to work with subnational and local governments in coastal cities to ensure that we live, act and plan with nature. This partnership provides a unique opportunity for urban communities and their governments to rise to the challenge and take ownership of our precious shores, committing to renewed action as part of this important Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.”

This new partnership comes right on time, with world leaders recognising and adopting an action-oriented Political Declaration to save the ocean from existing and future threats, including marine pollution, harmful fishing practices, biodiversity loss, and acidification at the 2022 UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon – co-hosted by Kenya and Portugal in June this year at the onset of the United Nations Decade of Oceans Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) advanced a global plan at the fourth Open Ended Working Group (OEWG-4) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 21-26 June to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. This Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is expected to be adopted at the CBD COP 15 in Montreal, Canada – under the Chinese presidency – in December 2022. 

The CBD is the only Rio Convention that has a systematic and comprehensive mechanism for multilevel governance that provides a framework for local and subnational governments to support Parties in reaching global and national biodiversity targets.

What was achieved at OEWG-4

Delegates worked on the text from the OEWG-3 meetings in Geneva in March, and rationalized parts of it, achieved consensus on several targets, and proposed diverse options for large parts of the framework. Parties set out their ambitions with respect to the goals of the framework, and refined the essential targets related to conservation, sustainable use, and benefit-sharing. They worked to develop a plan for resource mobilization and other means of implementation and highlighted the contribution of nature to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Parties also charted the pathway for an agreement on the sharing of benefits from Digital Sequencing Information on genetic resources. Their discussions further strengthened the role of Indigenous peoples, local communities, women, youth, and other stakeholders and to ensure that all voices will be heard, and no one will be left behind. 

Although discussions covered the entire framework text – which includes four goals and 23 proposed targets – four important goals of the framework (A through D) were a subject of intense discussion: 

Goal A – protecting biodiversity at all levels and preventing extinctions; 

Goal B – ensuring that biodiversity can meet people’s needs and support their human rights;

Goal C – benefits from the use of biodiversity and genetic resources are shared with equity and the traditional knowledge and rights of Indigenous and Local Communities are respected; and 

Goal D – adequate level of the means of implementation are enabled, including financial resources, capacity building and other supports to action.

Svg Vector Icons : http://www.onlinewebfonts.com/icon

I want to thank the Parties for their hard work, their commitment to consensus, and honest engagement in these negotiations. These efforts are considerable and have produced a text that, with additional work, will be the basis for reaching the 2050 vision of the Convention: a life in harmony with nature. I call upon the Parties, in the next months, to vigorously engage with the text, to listen to each other and seek consensus, and to prepare the final text for adoption at COP 15.

The Local and Subnational Major Group

The Local and Subnational Major Group was represented in-person by ICLEI with Ingrid Coetzee heading the delegation, and the Advisory Committee on Subnational Governments for Biodiversity, represented by a delegation from Quebec Province comprising Assistant Deputy Minister Jacob, Martin Malus – head of the delegation – Jean Lemire, and Rachel Levesque. Similar to previous CBD post-2020 meetings, ICLEI coordinated the delegation.

While there are still important elements that require additional work and consultation with the capital to further streamline texts, the Nairobi negotiations represented a good outcome for the local and subnational major group. These outcomes include:

  • similar to previous meetings, the meeting was marked by an increase in Parties (Nepal, Iran and the Philippines) calling for the inclusion of local and subnational governments in the GBF;
  • some Parties commended the Local and Subnational Major Group on how well coordinated and strategic their interventions were;
  • the Local and Subnational Major Group was given the opportunity to make two interventions in the contact groups – both interventions for text amendments to section B.bis (on [Principles and] [Approaches] [Guidance] for the implementation of the Framework) were supported by the Parties. References to local and subnational governments are also found in section B. Purpose, section D. Theory of Change, and section 1. Enabling Conditions; and
  • the group was invited to deliver joint statements in the opening and closing plenaries.

Local and subnational governments at COP 15 and 7th Cities Summit

Despite the important contributions of OEWG-4, a considerable amount of work will be required to advance the text for final high-level consideration by the Parties at COP 15. The OEWG-4 Meeting agreed to develop a path forward that includes the engagement of all regions preparing for talks involving all Parties immediately before the second part COP 15. These gatherings – culminating in OEWG-5 – would prepare a text for final negotiation by Ministers and their delegations at the second part of COP 15.

The relocation and new date for COP 15 Part 2 was announced during the opening plenary, following consultations between the Bureau, the Government of China as COP President, the Secretariat and the Government of Canada as host of the Secretariat. COP 15 Part 2 will be held in Montreal, Canada at the seat of the Secretariat, from 5 to 17 December 2022. China, as COP 15 President, will continue to preside over the Meetings, with the logo and the theme of COP 15 maintained. China will also convene the High-Level Segment and lead the facilitation of negotiations. 

COP 15 and the 7th Global Biodiversity Summit of Cities and Subnational Governments will be a global milestone to welcome a stronger contribution of local and subnational governments in the post-2020 GBF. It will be a strategic and historic moment for the local and subnational major group, which is calling for CBD Parties to adopt a renewed decision on engagement with subnational governments, cities and other local authorities to enhance implementation of the post-2020 GBF, and its Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2021-2030). No information or decision has been communicated around the status of official parallel events, including the 7th Cities Summit, but announcements will follow shortly based on discussions between the SCBD and the Canadian government.

On 18 July, renowned Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took CitiesWithNature – the global urban nature partnership initiative – to the stars, by posting a tweet from SPACE to highlight the importance of urban biodiversity and ecosystem restoration.

About AstroSamantha

Samantha Cristoforetti, aka AstroSamantha, is a renowned Italian astronaut in the European Space Agency. In 2001, Samantha joined the Italian Air Force, and was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in May 2009. On 23 November 2014, Samantha was launched from the cosmodrome of Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and returned to Earth on 11 June 2015, after spending 200 days in space. The mission, which was given the name Futura, was the second long-duration flight opportunity for the Italian Space Agency, and the eighth for an ESA astronaut.

In 2019, Samantha served as commander for NASA’s 23rd Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO23) mission during a 10-day stay in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius. Samantha returned to the International Space Station for her second mission, Minerva, on 27 April 2022. She was launched in a new SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule named Freedom alongside her Crew-4 crew mates, NASA astronauts Bob “Farmer” Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica “Watty” Watkins.

Samantha is a UNICEF ambassador and donates to UNICEF the proceeds from sales of her memoir Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut, in which she shares her experience of being selected as an astronaut and then training for and flying her first space mission.

AstroSamantha called for proposals on impactful biodiversity and ecosystem restoration work across the globe that is visible from SPACE so that she could highlight the value of nature and the importance of protecting biodiversity during her mission. ICLEI partnered with the City of Cape Town, a long-standing Member and pioneer CitiesWithNature city, and asked AstroSamantha to feature the incredible work that is being done in the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, while also calling on all cities to join CitiesWithNature and strengthen action through collaboration! On 18 July, the following Tweet circulated the globe, directly from Mission Minerva, reaching AstroSamantha’s 989.6k followers:

The space-based tweet highlighted the progress made through the Blaauwberg Large-scale Sand Fynbos Restoration Project in Cape Town. Cape Town is the most biodiverse city in the world, famous for its amazing variety of plants, collectively known as Fynbos. Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is a critically endangered habitat type, intrinsically rich in biodiversity, and found only within the city. The area being restored in Blaauwberg Nature Reserve was highly degraded and covered in dense woody alien invasive species. Besides having immense ecological importance, this area is also historically and socially significant. This restoration project is a prime example of collaboration and co-learning between researchers at a local university and City of Cape Town management, with external funders. Besides its ecological successes and lessons learnt, this project has produced a range of research projects and scientific papers on the various methodologies tested and employed, making it a great case study for other cities across the globe. The restoration project started in 2012 and is ongoing.

Why urban ecosystem restoration?

The total area covered by the world’s cities is set to triple in the next 40 years as millions of people continue to move into cities each week. Cities, regions and towns can control the way they change and grow, through a nature-positive approach. Collaboration across cities globally, and with all stakeholders, are essential to protecting biodiversity, restoring ecosystems, providing safe and accessible green open spaces, and reconnecting people with nature. CitiesWithNature, like Cape Town, are reaching for the stars and leading the way in restoring biodiversity and reconnecting their communities with nature. Restoring biodiversity can restore hope, and will help make cities sustainable and resilient through the ecosystem services provided by nature. Cape Town is one of the first hundred pioneer cities of the global CitiesWithNature initiative – which has now reached over 200 cities committed #ForNature. CitiesWithNature provides the UN Biodiversity-recognized platform that secures collaboration to strengthen the necessary actions to ensure that we have a bright, green future at peace with nature.