Climate and Nature in cities and regions: Water connects all

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 UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) from 7 to 19 December 2022 in Montréal provided the ideal opportunity for the CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature global partnership initiatives to highlight their notable progress in recent months. 

 CitiesWithNature has particularly experienced significant growth since its launch in 2018. During the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities at COP15, 36 new cities and five new global partners were welcomed to the CitiesWithNature global partnership initiative, which is recognized by the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity as the platform where subnational governments, cities and other local authorities report on their actions and voluntary commitments to the global biodiversity framework.

“By joining CitiesWithNature and using the Action Platform, cities across the world can commit ambitious actions that contribute to national and global biodiversity and nature goals, and easily track their achievements and actions individually and collectively. We strongly encourage all cities and regions, large and small, no matter where they are on their sustainability journeys, to join us and ensure we bring about the urgent transformative change that is needed!”

The sister platform to CitiesWithNature – RegionsWithNature – which focuses on subnational governments at the regional level and across urban-rural linkages, was officially launched on 12 December at the 7th Summit. During the CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature Announcement Ceremony, eight new subnational governments and two new global partners were welcomed on board.

“Launching RegionsWithNature, together with some of the most powerful subnational  leaders in the world, sends a powerful signal to the planet, and especially to the Parties of the Convention. Subnational governments are committed, they’re ready, and they’re already playing an important role in implementing concrete actions on the ground.”

New cities, regions and partners joining CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature at the 7th Subnational Governments and Cities Summit

NEW CITIES

City of Oakland, USA

City of Santa Monica, USA 

Lake County, USA 

City of Carbondale, USA 

San Francisco, USA

City of Boulder, USA

City of Boston, USA; 

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Canada

City of Laval, Canada; 

Cartagena das Indias, Colombia

Autonomous Decentralised Municipal Government of Pastaza Cantón, Colombia 

Alcaldía de Barranquilla, Colombia 

Metropolitan Area of Aburrá Valley, Colombia

City of Roseau, Dominica 

City of Portsmouth, Dominica

City of Utrecht, Netherlands

City of Paris, France 

City of Marseille, France

Iringa Municipal Council, Tanzania, 

Kisii County, Kenya, 

Tswelopele, South Africa 

Waterberg, South Africa, 

Kampala, Uganda 

Mukono Municipal Council, Uganda, 

The District Council of Black River, Mauritius, 

Hargeisa Municipality, Somalia, 

Chengdu, China

Huzhou, China 

Jiaxing, China 

Kunming, China

Nanyang, China 

Shenzhen, China 

City of Nagoya, Japan

Chiang Mai, Thailand 

Caygan de Ouro, Philippines

Mashhad Municipality, Iran

NEW REGIONS

La Rioja, Spain 

Basque country, Spain

Aland islands in Finland

California in USA

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Paraná in Brazil 

Guanajuato, Mexico 

Jalisco in Mexico

New partners

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

WHO (World Health Organization)

CC35 (Capital Cities of the Americas)

CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature:

The Convention on Migratory Species (UN CMS)

R20 (Regions of Climate Action)

"Thank you for being part of the two Platforms, which give us the space to act together. As Nature is our home so are CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature."

Why are CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature important?

Knowledge sharing

CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature provide educational resources to ensure that cities are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of natural resources and ecosystems required to ensure that these issues are included in the cities and regions’ goals and planning. 

One of the primary goals of these platforms is to keep city officials updated on best practices and lessons learned about important biodiversity topics, predominantly through the Tools and Resources section, but also by connecting cities and regions with one another. Connecting subnational and local governments facilitates much-needed collaboration across all levels of government to achieve the biodiversity goals as captured in the newly adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. 

“We need to strengthen our collaboration, our network, our initiative in conservation to maximize the solutions which work, through the platforms CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature.”

With 373 scientifically robust resources – including reports on topics such as nature-based solutions, ecosystems, health and well-being, and biodiversity governance, the Tools & Resources section empowers cities and regions with current and updated information on best practices.

CitiesWithNature offers Guides that package science-based information in a way that is easy to understand and accessible to cities. During COP15, CitiesWithNature announced that its Guide on light pollution, created in collaboration with the UN Convention on Migratory Species, will be launched soon.

In 2022, CitiesWithNature created its first Community of Practice – which is a platform aimed at connecting cities to learn from one another, by predominantly utilizing its chat function. The platform also aims to bring together the broader community of researchers and practitioners to connect with cities to solve biodiversity-related challenges. The first Community of Practice was launched for coastal cities, in collaboration with the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).

Knowledge sharing has been facilitated through a range of tools and activities including targeted campaigns, news and updates, as well as webinars to empower cities with the knowledge of how to use the Action Platform. CitiesWithNature also uses its newsletter – the Buzz – to keep cities updated with current events, news and important information, while also profiling the achievements of CitiesWithNature cities and RegionsWithNature regions in achieving their biodiversity targets.

During the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities, Regions4’s Case Study Database, one of RegionsWithNature’s new tools, was  launched. The Database is a freely accessible open source online database that showcases the subnational government experience. Currently eight case studies from six regions – Québec, Catalonia, the Basque  Country,  Lombardy,  Jalisco,  and  Aichi – are available in Spanish, French, and English. Its goal is to build and develop capacities at the regional level of government, transforming on-the-ground knowledge into best practice learning opportunities in support of the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

Monitoring and reporting

While RegionsWithNature was only recently launched, CitiesWithNature already has an established range of tools for monitoring and reporting on cities’ biodiversity actions. Notably, the CitiesWithNature Action Platform is used to feed local and subnational level actions for biodiversity into national biodiversity planning. The action areas, commitments, actions and targets are all linked with the Sustainable Development Goals and Global Biodiversity Framework targets to ensure they align with national priorities.

This is supported by the Nature Pathway – guiding cities step by step to promote and mainstream nature into their policy, planning and actions.

During COP15, CitiesWithNature also launched the digitized version of the City Biodiversity Index, also known as the Singapore Index, which is based on the updated version of the CBI handbook. The automated calculations of this digitized version help cities establish a baseline for biodiversity to further monitor and report on their biodiversity, for example by making commitments and setting targets on the Action Platform.

Through this monitoring and reporting function, CitiesWithNature also plays a role in mobilizing the subnational and local governments Major Group by leading and providing support to critical advocacy events such as the 7th Summit and its associated Pavilion at COP15.

“CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature are recognized in the Plan of Action as being the place where subnational governments and cities can report on their commitments towards contributing to national and global biodiversity targets and track their progress, and I am really hoping to see many more commitments made on these platforms.”

To encourage cities to make use of the Action Platform, CitiesWithNature employs a reward system that acknowledges and celebrates cities’ commitments. This includes certificates, reward badges and rankings that appear on City Profiles and can be downloaded as pdfs for cities to share and keep track of their progress.

In addition to all the functionalities mentioned above, CitiesWithNature will also launch its Community and Research Hubs in the near future to further connect cities, researchers and practitioners.

Watch the ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center video featuring voices from across the world calling for cities to become CitiesWithNature here.

Center of Excellence launched at COP15

The ICLEI-Kunming International Center of Excellence for CitiesWithNature, jointly initiated by ICLEI and Kunming City, was formally established at a signing ceremony during the 7th Summit on 12 December. The center is committed to be an important platform for demonstration, peer learning and creating partnerships between Chinese and international cities on nature conservation and biodiversity. It will also help enhance local governments’ technical capacity and encourage local commitment and actions for the implementation of the newly adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The activities of the center will run in close collaboration with ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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

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).

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.

Urbanization is one of the key defining mega-trends of our time. Four billion people, about half of the world’s population, currently live in urban areas. This number is expected to dramatically increase with the predicted rise in urbanization rates. According to The Nature in the Urban Century report, authored by The Nature Conservancy, Future Earth and The Stockholm Resilience Centre, by 2050, there will be 2.4 billion more people in cities, a rate of urban growth that is equivalent to building a city the population of London every seven weeks. Humanity will urbanize an additional area of 1.2 million km2, larger than the country of Colombia.

The report also found that if current trends continue over the next two decades, urban growth will threaten more than 290,000 km2 of habitat — an area larger than New Zealand. Protected lands are increasingly in close proximity to cities, with 40% of strictly protected areas anticipated to be within 50 km of a city by 2030.

The urbanization trend poses a major threat to several critical ecosystems, including wetlands. Wetlands can play a crucial role in urban biodiversity, and in maintaining ecosystems and the well-being of urban communities. When preserved and sustainably used, urban wetlands can provide cities with multiple economic, social and cultural benefits. During storms, urban wetlands absorb excess rainfall, which reduces flooding in cities and prevents disasters and their subsequent costs. The abundant vegetation found in urban wetlands acts as a filter for domestic and industrial waste and contribute to improving water quality.

As cities grow and the demand for land use increases, the tendency is for development to encroach on wetlands, because they are often perceived as wastelands that can be used as dumping grounds or converted for other land uses.

Urban wetlands are prized assets, not wasteland, and therefore should be proactively conserved and integrated into the development and management plans of cities. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) is promoting cities that take exceptional steps to protect their wetlands and benefits to people, by giving credit to cities that prioritize their urban wetlands through an accreditation scheme.

The 172 Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands have agreed to the conservation and wise use of wetlands in their territories. Recognizing the importance of cities and urban wetlands, the Convention introduced a Wetland City accreditation scheme in 2015 (Resolution XII.10). This voluntary scheme provides an opportunity for cities that value their natural and/or human-made wetlands to gain international recognition and positive publicity for their efforts. Cities must apply to be accredited and they have to show that they comply with a number of criteria, including exceptional protection, care and wise use of their wetlands through a range of mechanisms such as urban planning and education.

2018

During the first cycle of the City Accreditation Scheme, the 18 cities that qualified for accreditation were announced at the Convention of Wetlands COP13 in 2018. These 18 cities were:

  • China: Changde, Changshu, Dongying, Haerbin, Haikou, Yinchuan
  • France: Amiens, Courteranges, Pont Audemer, Saint Omer
  • Hungary: Lakes by Tata
  • Republic of Korea: Changnyeong, Inje, Jeju, Suncheon
  • Madagascar: Mitsinjo
  • Sri Lanka: Colombo
  • Tunisia: Ghar el Melh

The intention is that The Wetland City Accreditation scheme will 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 wetlands and participation in municipal planning and decision-making. The Accreditation scheme should further promote the conservation and wise use of urban and peri-urban wetlands, as well as sustainable socio-economic benefits for local people.

During the 59th meeting of the Convention on Wetlands Standing Committee on 26 May 2022, the Co-Chairs of the Convention on Wetlands Independent Advisory Committee on Wetland City Accreditation announced that 25 applicant cities had been accepted in recognition of their exceptional efforts to safeguard urban wetlands for people and nature.

Congratulations to the cities that have been accredited! One of the cities, Cape Town, is one of the pioneer CitiesWithNature – a global partnership initiative that recognizes and enhances the value of nature in and around cities across the world. The 2022 accredited cities are:

2022

During the second cycle of the City Accreditation Scheme, 25 cities qualified for accreditation and were announced during the Convention on Wetlands Standing Committee of May 2022. These newly accredited cities will be formally recognized during the COP14 of the Convention on Wetlands, to be held in November 2022.

These 25 cities are:

  • Canada: Sackville
  • China: Hefei; Jining; Liangping; Nanchang; Panjin; Wuhan; and Yangcheng
  • France: Belval-en-Argonne and Seltz
  • Indonesia: Surabaya and Tanjung Jabung Timur
  • Islamic Republic of Iran: Bandar Khamir and Varzaneh
  • Iraq: Al Chibayish
  • Japan: Izumi and Niigata
  • Morocco: Ifrane
  • Republic of Korea: Gochang; Seocheon; and Seogwipo
  • Rwanda: Kigali
  • South Africa: Cape Town
  • Spain: Valencia
  • Thailand: Sri Songkhram District

Kijani Pamoja – based in Tanzania – has joined CitiesWithNature as an official partner! Kijani Pamoja is a youth-led Pan-African re-greening movement to activate, inspire, and educate communities to regreen cities and urban spaces and care for the environment. CitiesWithNature and Kijani Pamoja will collaborate on developing and sharing practical guidance around tree planting – specifically creating Miyawaki forests – as well as awareness raising and advocacy around nature, biodiversity and Green Recovery.

Kijani Pamoja means “Green Together” and works to unite communities to become restoration leaders and key drivers of the movement. Their mission is to activate financial and human resources to engage communities to take action and plant trees and uber-dense indigenous “mini” forests (Miyawaki Forests) in cities across Africa.

In March 2022, in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland to Tanzania, Kijani Pomoja launched a 10-year urban re-greening movement that aims to plant millions of trees to create thousands of mini-forests across Dar es Salaam. This forms part of their efforts to reduce the country’s largest commercial city’s vulnerability to climate change.

Image gallery

Story and photo credit: John Namkwahe, Communication Lead at Kijani Pamoja

 

Dar es Salaam is estimated to lose about 10% of its trees annually according to IINTERACT-Bio’s 2019 study titled “A Thematic Atlas of Nature’s Benefits to Dar es Salaam”. The study further indicates that by 2040, Dar es Salaam will frequently experience temperatures above 36°C and therefore recommends that tree planting efforts are intensified.

A similar urban re-greening campaign was also launched in Zanzibar on 22 March, implemented by Kijani Pamoja partners to further promote the climate action agenda in the isles. The launch event brought together a number of environmental stakeholders from public entities, private institutions and development partners including embassies to Tanzania.

As a partner organization to CitiesWithNature, Kijani Pamoja aims to address some of the environmental challenges faced by other towns and cities across Tanzania and East African Community (EAC) Member States such as Kenya and Uganda in the near future.

“Protecting and enhancing urban green spaces provides huge benefits to one of Africa’s fastest growing cities. Growing and caring for trees encourages active community participation and improves the mental and physical health of people living in our cities” said Ms. Sarah Scott, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of the Kijani Pamoja Movement during the organization’s launch in March. Moreover, she appealed to the Tanzanian government, global donor community, private sector, and local communities to join hands and work together to eliminate the existing environmental challenges in the country.

The Tanzanian Government and environmental stakeholders operating in Tanzania including the Embassies and private sector institutions have pledged to support the Movement. In support of the movement, Ms. Jokate Mwegelo – a District Commissioner for Temeke, who officiated the movement launch on behalf of Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Mr. Amos Makala – said, “I am encouraged by the Kijani Pamoja mission and movement to engage various stakeholders plus communities in our country to plant trees and make our cities more livable and sustainable for the future”. She added: “We are all responsible for conserving nature for the betterment of our planet. The Government of Tanzania plays its part to conserve the environment by preserving forests and supporting environmental conservation initiatives in the country”.

The Irish Deputy Head of Mission, Ms. Mags Gaynor, emphasized the crucial role of forests in addressing climate change and protecting our planet. She added that, “Climate action is a diplomatic and development priority for Ireland. Therefore, Ireland is happy to support Kijani Pamoja in this initiative that will contribute to increasing urban forest conservation, mobilizing stakeholders, and inspiring youth to be at a forefront of the movement”.

Light pollution and its impact on migratory birds is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day 2022, a global campaign that aims to raise awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them. Activities to mark the day will be held globally under the theme “Dim the Lights for Birds at Night”.

Light pollution is increasing around the globe. More than 80 per cent of the world’s population is currently estimated to live under a “lit sky”, a figure closer to 99 per cent in Europe and North America. The amount of artificial light on the Earth’s surface is increasing by at least 2 per cent each year and could be much greater.

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Natural darkness has a conservation value in the same way as clean water, air, and soil.

A key goal of World Migratory Bird Day 2022 is to raise awareness of the issue of light pollution and its negative impacts on migratory birds.

Solutions are readily available, and we hope to encourage key decision-makers to adopt measures to address light pollution.

Light pollution is a significant and growing threat to wildlife including many species of migratory birds. Every year, light pollution contributes to the death of millions of birds. It alters the natural patterns of light and dark in ecosystems. It can change birds’ migration patterns, foraging behaviours, and vocal communication. Attracted by artificial light at night, particularly when there is low cloud, fog, rain or when flying at lower altitudes, migrating birds become disorientated and may end up circling in illuminated areas. Depleted energy reserves put them at risk of exhaustion, predation, and fatal collision with buildings.

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An enormous diversity of birds, active at night, experience the impacts of light pollution.

Many nocturnally migrating birds such as ducks, geese, plovers, sandpipers and songbirds are affected by light pollution causing disorientation and collisions with fatal consequences.

Seabirds such as petrels and shearwaters are attracted by artificial lights on land and become prey for rats and cats.

Solutions and recommendations to mitigate light pollution

Guidelines on light pollution covering marine turtles, seabirds, and migratory shorebirds were endorsed by the CMS Parties in 2020. Among their recommendations, the guidelines set forth six principles of best lighting practices and call for Environmental Impact Assessments for relevant projects that could result in light pollution. These should consider the main sources of light pollution at a certain site, the likely wild species that could be impacted, and facts about proximity to important habitats and migratory pathways.

New guidelines focusing on migratory landbirds and bats are currently being developed under CMS. They will be presented to CMS Parties for adoption at the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS in 2023.

Numerous governments, cities, companies, and communities around the world are already taking steps to address light pollution.

In some cities, particularly in North America, initiatives such as “Lights Out” programmes and bird-friendly building guidelines aim to protect migrating birds from light pollution by encouraging building owners and managers to turn off any unnecessary lighting during migration periods.

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World Migratory Bird Day is a call to action for international migratory bird conservation.

As migratory birds’ journey across borders, inspiring and connecting people along the way, it is our aim to use the two days in 2022 to raise awareness of the threat of light pollution and the importance of dark skies to bird migrations.

More information

About World Migratory Bird Day

World Migratory Bird Day, celebrated in both May and October each year, is organized by a collaborative partnership among two UN wildlife treaties – the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds

(AEWA) – and the non-profit organization, Environment for the Americas (EFTA). The 2022 campaign is also being actively supported by the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Secretariat, BirdLife International and a growing number of other dedicated organizations. World Migratory Bird Day highlights the importance of international cooperation for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. For the peak day in May, more than 200 registered events in over 30 countries to mark World Migratory Bird Day 2022 will include bird festivals, education programmes, media events, bird watching trips, presentations, film screenings and a benefit concert to raise funds for international nature conservation.

These events are hosted by governments, parks, schools, libraries, and numerous other groups and range from bird walks to educational workshops and festivals. Some events are offered virtually.

In the Americas, upcoming virtual events include an expert-led webinar on bird migration hosted by the National Audubon Society and a conversation with bird-glass collision researcher and author Daniel Klem Jr. hosted by Environment for the Americas on May 12th. There will be a virtual art activity and reading of the children’s book What if Night? with author Paul Bogard and illustrator Sarah Holden on May 13th.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) established a special WMBD Small Grant Fund to provide financial support to EAAFP Partners and collaborators to raise awareness on the need of conserving migratory waterbirds and the value of their habitats in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. The EAAFP also published a special newsletter to mark World Migratory Bird Day 2022.

Why celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on two days?

Traditionally observed on the second Saturday of May and October, the two celebrations of World Migratory Bird Day are a way to reflect the cyclical nature of bird migration as well as the fact that there are varying peak migration periods in the northern and southern hemispheres. The two-day observance of World Migratory Bird Day also gives more people the chance to celebrate and contemplate migratory birds during peak migration times in different parts of the world.
www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

About the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

An environmental treaty of the United Nations, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. This unique treaty brings governments and wildlife experts together to address the conservation needs of terrestrial, aquatic, and avian migratory species and their habitats around the world. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1979, its membership has grown steadily to include 133 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
www.cms.int @bonnconvention

About the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is an intergovernmental treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds that migrate along the African-Eurasian Flyway. The Agreement covers 255 species of bird ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle. The treaty covers 119 range States from Europe, parts of Asia and Canada, the Middle East and Africa. As of today, AEWA currently has 82 Parties, 44 from Eurasia (including the European Union) and 38 from Africa.
www.unep-aewa.org @UNEP_AEWA

Environment for the Americas (EFTA)

EFTA is a Colorado-based non-profit organization that provides bilingual educational materials and information about birds and bird conservation to raise awareness of migratory birds and to promote actions that protect migratory birds throughout the Americas.
https://www.environmentamericas.org/

Related links:

CMS COP13 Resolutions and Decisions on Addressing Light Pollution: