Blue Flag partners with CitiesWithNature initiative

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.”

Daniel Schaffer, CEO of the Foundation for Environmental Education

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.”

Kobie Brand, Deputy Director General of ICLEI

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).

The UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, took place between 27 June and 1 July 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal, and culminated in delegates adopting a political declaration titled ‘Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility’. 

The conference brought together national and local governments, UN agencies, and multiple stakeholders across different sectors to explore and identify solutions aimed at finding major structural transformations and common shared solutions, to be anchored in the SDGs. 

Under the theme ‘Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions’, discussions focused on leveraging interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) and other SDGs towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Throughout the conference, the linkages between SDG 14 and goals related to clean water and sanitation, poverty, food security, health, women, decent work, climate action, cities, terrestrial ecosystems, and partnerships were emphasized.

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Jessie Turner, Director of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance) captured the importance of urgent action for oceans: “When talking about climate change impacts on our ocean, we must be clear that while we don’t know everything, we know enough to act. We know enough to begin prioritizing and exploring the key questions that are most important to policy makers, seafood industries and coastal communities. And the good news is…we have lots of existing frameworks across different scales of governance that can be leveraged to take up this work.”

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center was represented by Kate Strachan – Manager, Climate Change Resilience, ICLEI Africa, and Stefania Romano – Global Coordinator for CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature, Recruitment and Advocacy.

During an interactive dialogue titled ‘Leveraging interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goal 14 and other Goals towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’, ICLEI emphasized the need for cities to learn from one another and apply these lessons and practices to protect, manage and restore vulnerable urban coastal ecosystems. To achieve this, CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature are international partnership initiatives providing a platform to connect local and subnational governments globally with NGOs, experts and communities to act for nature.

By 2025, nearly 6 billion people will live within 200 km of a coastline. Population growth and climate change-related impacts are increasing coastal risks and degrading coastal ecosystems upon which millions depend. Climate change impacts also compound existing pressures, such as pollution from land-based sources, ocean acidification and overfishing. Coastal cities and regions have unique opportunities to mobilize and demonstrate leadership in taking action to protect our ocean and ensure that the ocean and its accompanying coast are sustainably managed.

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“It has never been as urgent as it is today to restore damaged ecosystems,” Stefania said. “SDG 14 offers a great opportunity to advance ocean sustainability globally and address current and emerging threats.” The goal is underpinned by targets addressing the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resources – including coastal zones – and capacity building for ocean governance. In addition, SDG 14 supports the achievement of SDGs related to poverty alleviation, food security, sustainable blue/ocean economy, and climate change. 

ICLEI was involved in a number of sessions and played a role in bringing to the forefront the role of subnational governments in ocean governance. As evident during the conference, both national and subnational governments are leading the way, taking domestic and international actions that expand climate-ocean policy and financing for this work.

Organizations and partnership initiatives such as ICLEI, CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature can facilitate learning from coastal city leaders, while simultaneously seeking deeper integration across climate, ocean and biodiversity commitments. These efforts will advance actions that address climate change, support food security and sovereignty, and increase resilience of marine ecosystems, economies, and communities.  

Despite the delays in pivotal ocean and climate convenings and benchmarks as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, the UN Oceans conference sparked momentum once again, through the notable outcome of the 2022 UN Oceans Conference – the ‘Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility’ declaration. 

Matosinhos side-event

Prior to the official Conference, a Special Event on ‘Localizing Ocean Action’ was held in Matosinhos (Porto) on 25 of July, convened by the co-hosts of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, together with the City of Matosinhos, and organized in collaboration with UN DESA, UN Global Compact, the Climate Champions Team, the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, ICLEI, Regions4 Sustainable Development, Ocean & Climate Platform (OCP), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Resilient Cities Network, the International Association of Cities & Ports (AIVP) and OECD. The special session highlighted urban-ocean linkages, specifically around marine plastic pollution, blue finance, local community development, human rights-based approaches towards transformation, and SDG 14 and the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The special event also covered the role of local and regional governments to engage in global efforts and decisions to protect the ocean and maritime resources. The outcomes from the special event were conveyed during the main UN Ocean Conference.  

ICLEI and the OCP co-organized Local Ocean Action Session 1, titled ‘The clock is ticking: How can coastal cities build resilience and incorporate nature-based solutions to protect local populations?’ This session focused on the importance of investing in innovative sustainable solutions, particularly nature-based ones, to combat the impacts of climate change, such as flooding, coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Speakers were invited to share innovative practices implemented by cities and regions. The panel was moderated by Kate Strachan, while Stefania Romano presented CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature as the Convention on Biological Diversity-recognized international partnership initiatives providing a platform and connecting local and subnational governments acting for nature. The side-event resulted in the Municipality of Matosinhos joining CitiesWithNature.

Session key messages included

  • Coastal territories adaptation has to be considered at a larger territorial scale. From megalopolis to secondary cities and small towns, the more vulnerable urban areas have to collaborate at the regional scale to better design sustainable coastal adaptation strategies. It is crucial to reinforce cooperation at every level and encourage a “whole-of-society” approach.
  • Climate coastal adaptation is changing towards a new sustainable paradigm. There is no one-fit-all solution. Managed retreat, nature-based solutions, hard and soft coastal protection, technical innovations, early warning systems, raising awareness, and education are all relevant responses that have to be combined, considering the local context. 
  • Key coastal stakeholders all have to be engaged in the global coastal transition for a sustainable blue economy, a well-adapted coastline and an equitable future. Local decision makers, populations, civil society, ports, tourism sector and privates should all be part of a co-construction process. 
  • Coastal adaptation and resilience has to include societal issues. Many communities have a difficult time securing funds and techniques for equitable coastal resilience. Targeting youth and women in terms of livelihood, coastal adaptation might be an opportunity to reduce poverty and social inequalities.

ICLEI in collaboration with Regions4, the Government of Catalonia, UCLG, and the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments co-organized session 3: ‘Strengthening Cooperation, Building Innovative Governance Approaches to protect the ocean. Finding solutions to the complex and multi-dimensional sustainability challenges faced by coastal areas, which are aggravated by climate change, requires an inclusive and innovative governance approach. Building on the previous sessions that focused on impacts and finance, this session focused on governance as a core condition for the implementation of SDG14. 

Session key messages included

  • Local and regional governments have been leading in developing effective solutions through local public service provision, partnerships and initiatives that include and support fishers, and local populations and their know-how and experience must be harnessed to protect our oceans.
  • Co-management approaches among different spheres of government and actors trigger a culture of collaboration and trust thus enabling an ecosystem-based management. These approaches can in turn permeate to other sectors.
  • The achievement of sustainable small-scale fisheries calls for inclusive and participatory governance arrangements, at all levels. This entails meaningful participation, taking into account and addressing existing power imbalances, strengthening stakeholder organizations, such as small-scale fisheries organizations and supporting dialogue and peer learning.
  • Close collaboration among actors must be backed by scientifically recognized data, all facilitated by impartial elements that ensure accountability and transparent, informed and fair processes.
  • The capacity of local and regional governments in building sustainable management models needs to be strengthened. Particularly, the capacity of SIDS and their cities and regions to respond to global challenges in light of increased ocean and sea degradation.
  • Local and regional governments are willing to join the decision-making table on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, convening a powerful voice one the global agendas, while promoting opportunities for peer-learning, exchange of experiences and scale-up of effective practices.

To implement nature-based solutions successfully in urban areas we need smart policies and effective ways of working together with many different stakeholders. The Urban Nature Atlas is a great place to learn from various nature-based solutions that cities have already implemented. Take a look at this database developed by CitiesWithNature partner organisation Naturvation below. 

But what policy instruments can we use in cities to encourage nature-based solutions such as ecosystem restoration or sustainable urban drainage systems? A new database, the Urban Governance Atlas, will provide proven policy instruments. They are inviting people to nominate policy instruments that could be included in the database until 30 June:

The Urban Governance Atlas (UGA) will be an interactive online database of around 250 good practice policy instruments that support the use of nature-based solutions (NBS) for urban ecosystem restoration and more inclusive green space planning. The first database of its kind, the UGA will allow users to explore a different kinds of policy instruments being applied across the world, especially those coming from countries in the EU and Latin America. By focusing on instruments that have been proven to work well, the UGA will support cities to become greener and more inclusive and serve as a resource for civil society, the scientific community, and wider audiences.

In addition to serving as a resource, the UGA provides an opportunity for you to share your knowledge and be part of a global community working on NBS. By helping us to fill in the UGA, your organization or project logo can also be featured on the website! Sound interesting?

  1. Nominate policy instruments for us to include in the database (email these to mckenna.davis@ecologic.eu); and
  2. Fill out a short questionnaire per instrument (for more information, visit our informational page and watch our short introductory video)

For any questions, please contact mckenna.davis@ecologic.eu. Thank you for your support and we look forward to hearing from you!

Nominations and inputs are welcome until  30 June 2022.

Source: https://oppla.eu/urban-governance-atlas-call-contributions

What's in a name?

Speaking of nature-based solutions, what exactly are they? Definitions matter and there has been a fair amount of debate about how nature-based solutions should be defined. At the UN Environment Assembly earlier this year, the following definition was adopted:

Nature-based solutions are ‘actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, which address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being, ecosystem services and resilience and biodiversity benefits.’

Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by DLKR on Unsplash

CitiesWithNature offers the latest NbS tools & resources

The Tools & Resources Hub on the CitiesWithNature platform provides easy access to a wide range of reliable resources and cutting-edge tools on nature-based solutions. All in one place, and for free.

The second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) Cities and Regions Summit challenges us to see cities as champions of nature and accelerators of a sustainable future. Experts and city leaders will speak about the value of nature-positive strategies in rethinking the way cities are planned, and how to scale up action for nature. Various CitiesWithNature partner organisations, such as ICLEI, WWF and IUCN, are involved in the summit, as well as CitiesWithNature cities such as Cape Town.

Join virtually for a dedicated session on “Urban Nature-Based Solutions to Counter Climate Risks and Limit Global Warming”. Cool Coalition partners will discuss how they are using nature to beat the heat and achieve a sustainable, resilient urban future.

Speakers include:

  • Kunal KumarJoint Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India
  • Rebecca Pow MPMinister for Nature Recovery and the Domestic Environment, UK
  • Dieudonné Bantsimba, Mayor of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
  • Geordin Hill-Lewis, Executive Mayor of the Cape Town, South Africa
  • Eleni (Lenio) Myrivili, Chief Heat Officer, City of Athens, Greece
  • Supriya Sahu, Principal Secretary, Environment, Climate Change & Forest, Tamil Nadu
  • Ming Jiang, Deputy Director, Development & Reform Commission, Chengdu City, China
  • Jennifer Lenhart, Global Lead, WWF Cities
  • Stewart Maginnis, Deputy Director General, IUCN
  • Kongjian Yu, Professor, Peking College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
  • Andy Deacon, Acting Managing Director, Global Covenant of Mayors 

What is the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA)?

The United Nations Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, is holding its two-yearly meeting from 28 February to 2 March 2022. The Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. It addresses the critical environmental challenges facing the world today. Understanding these challenges and preserving and rehabilitating our environment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Environment Assembly meets to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. Through its resolutions and calls to action, the Assembly provides leadership and catalyses intergovernmental action on the environment. Decision-making requires broad participation, which is why the Assembly provides an opportunity for all peoples to help design solutions for our planet’s health.

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