In our rapidly urbanizing world, the fate of biodiversity rests heavily on the shoulders of cities. Urban areas occupy less than 1% of the Earth's landmass, yet they accommodate more than half of the global population.
The relentless march of urbanization has not been without consequences for the natural world, with direct repercussions on the well-being of urban residents. Understanding the significance of nature in cities and recognizing the multi-benefits it provides is crucial.
To support urban ecosystem restoration the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has handpicked 19 cities to take part in the Generation Restoration project to be announced on World Cities Day. This initiative stands as a contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the Global Biodiversity Framework.
Of these, eight cities are set to embark on innovative Pilot projects to restore their urban ecosystems, and 11 Role Models are set to accompany and support them as Champions of Restoration. UNEP and ICLEI are providing financial and technical assistance to these initiatives to ensure their success.
The Generation Restoration cities are embracing Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to restore the essential bond between cities and nature, all the while mitigating the adverse effects of climate change on urban communities.
Mirey Atallah, Head, Nature for Climate Branch, Ecosystems Division, UNEP, celebrated this initiative: "Embracing nature-based solutions in our urban landscapes is a commitment to a greener, more sustainable future for both citizens and the urban areas they occupy. Generation Restoration is the guiding light for cities as they endeavor to harmonize with nature, constructing resilient and thriving communities that coexist harmoniously with the environment."
Eight Pioneering Cities for Ecosystems Restoration
Out of an impressive pool of 250 applications from across the globe, eight cities have been chosen to receive grants of up to US$100,000 to fuel restoration projects.
In Cameroon, the city of Douala IV will breathe new life into mangroves and establish governance structures with active involvement from local communities. In Senegal, Dakar-Plateau and Thies are crafting a lush greenbelt and blue-green zones around the city, facilitating the movement of species between protected areas and controlling urban sprawl.
“The battle to protect the environment for our survival and that of the future generation is a lifetime battle that should be embraced by all. We are pleased to discover that our efforts have been recognized internationally”, stated Professor Moby Mpah, Mayor of Douala IV, Cameroon.
In the Philippines, Quezon City is rallying local communities and students to identify urban spaces in need of rejuvenation, transforming them into ecological corridors, green oases, and pollinator havens. Meanwhile, in India, the city of Kochi is undertaking the restoration of canals, once making up 70% of the city area, to reduce urban flooding and enhance the water quality of the Vembanad Lake ecosystem, with mobile wetlands and native mangroves.
Bangladesh's Sirajganj is unwavering in its mission to restore the city's riverbanks, creating a vibrant green corridor that promises rehabilitation, restoration, and the enhancement of biodiversity. In Ecuador, the canton of Samborondon is dedicated to the rejuvenation of mangroves along the Daule and Babahoyo rivers, reintroducing native species, eliminating invasive species, and restoring natural habitats.
“Samborondón joins this global movement as one of the pilot cities for Urban Ecosystem Restoration. We're excited to take action, restore mangroves, and pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient future”, stated Mr. Yúnez, Mayor of Samborondón, Ecuador.
Mexico City is making strides in fortifying citizen participation to promote ecological restoration, ushering nature back into the urban environment.
“In Mexico City, we decided to open the doors to nature: we are restoring and strengthening a network of green and blue veins to recover biodiversity, contribute to people's well-being and improve our resilience. In this process, people are the most important thing: the right to a healthy environment and social participation are key to ecological restoration. This is why we are excited about this collaboration.” Marina Robles, Minister of the Environment of the Government of Mexico City.
In the heart of the Amazon, Brazil's Manaus is vigorously promoting agroecology in urban and peri-urban areas as a nature-based solution to enhance food security and alleviate the pressures on nearby precious forests.
Global Urban Champions for Ecosystem Restoration
But here's the twist: these dynamic Pilot cities are not alone in this journey. They are receiving unwavering support from Generation Restoration's Champions of restoration —11Role Model cities from around the globe. These cities, including Barranquilla, Cape Town, Curitiba, Glasgow, Istanbul, Iloilo, Kanazawa, Paris, Seattle, Toronto, and Yangzhou, stand at the frontline of grappling with the socioeconomic impacts of climate change and the loss of vital ecosystems.
- Cape Town, South Africa, restores wetlands, combats invasive species, and coastal dune fields.
- Iloilo, Philippines, manages coastal and river ecosystems and protects mangroves.
- Kanazawa, Japan, is a pioneer in urban nature conservation and timber use regulations.
- Yangzhou, China, enhances the urban ecosystem by restoring brownfield and recycling waste to nature.
- Curitiba, Brazil, boosts urban biodiversity and vegetation.
- Barranquilla, Colombia, focuses on comprehensive freshwater ecosystem restoration.
- Toronto, Canada, has expertise in ecological restoration and urban forest management.
- Seattle, WA, USA, engages community volunteers in urban forest restoration.
- Glasgow, Scotland, collaborates on ecosystem restoration and climate resilience.
- Istanbul, Turkey, is implementing the "Urban Ecosystem Restoration Plan."
- Paris, France, is a leader in biodiversity restoration through green space management, green roofs, and ecological corridor protection, enhancing citizens' quality of life.
“We are honored that the City of Toronto was selected as a Model City for UNEP’s Generation Restoration project. We have a vision for a sustainable and resilient future for ourselves and future generations and a long-standing commitment to preserving and enhancing the natural environment (…)”, stated Ms. Chow, Mayor of the City of Toronto, Canada. “By embracing Generation Restoration, Toronto reinforces its work to promote and deliver sustainable development, climate action and promote the well-being of residents and visitors alike. We look forward to sharing and learning with our global counterparts as we work together to protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity and enhance the quality of life for our citizens.”
These cities are living proof that, with adequate financing, meticulous planning, and robust collaboration, restoring nature within urban landscapes is not only feasible, but can elevate the quality of life, including mental well-being, and create urban environments that contribute to biodiversity.
Urban Eco-Restoration: A Global Imperative
As we witness this remarkable movement unfold, it becomes clear that the integration of NbS is not a luxury but an imperative for the environmental and social sustainability of our cities. The future of urban life depends on embracing these innovative approaches. Join us in this incredible journey as cities worldwide embrace the remarkable beauty of coexisting harmoniously with the environment, safeguarding both the Earth's natural riches and the livelihoods of the people who call these cities home.
Generation Restoration is all about ensuring long-term sustainability. We're teaming up with global experts to develop innovative methods for tracking and enhancing funding for NbS in urban areas. The idea is to help cities thrive while taking care of the environment, while contributing to achieving Target 12 in the Global Biodiversity Framework of increasing the area, quality and benefits of green and blue spaces in urban areas by 2030.
“As the world becomes more urbanized, particularly in Latin America where over 70% of the population live in cities, new and ongoing efforts to restore and protect our urban ecosystems will be pivotal to address our planet’s triple threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”, added Mr. Pumarejo, Mayor of Barranquilla, Colombia.
Let’s hear directly from other Leaders of our Generation Restoration Cities
“Reinforcing the role of plants and biodiversity is a key challenge for cities. In Paris, we plant wherever possible: streets, squares, walls, roofs, and we try to give priority to full soils. In this way, from being a city with gardens we wish to become a true "Garden City" that can cope with the consequences of climate change”, announced Mr. Najdovski, Deputy Mayor of the City of Paris, France.
“ ‘Team Cape Town’ is committed to preserving and enhancing our rich natural heritage, whilst moving towards a sustainable and resilient future for our citizens’ wellbeing. As a #GenerationRestoration Role Model city, with UNEP, ICLEI, and partner cities, we seek to collaboratively accelerate development and implementation of urban ecosystem restoration plans”, shared Alderman Eddie Andrews, Executive Deputy Mayor of the City of Cape Town, South Africa.
“Curitiba is honored to be recognized as a Role Model city in the Generation Restoration Project and is proud to be part of this transformative journey. As cities expand, we confront challenges like urban heat islands, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Through this project, we aim to share our experiences in mitigating these challenges and turning them into opportunities”, shared Mr. Greca de Macedo, Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil. “By restoring our urban ecosystems, we not only enhance our environment but also improve the well-being of our citizens, foster community cohesion, and drive economic growth.”
“I’m always proud to share our city's sustainability journey and good practices with other cities and localities. Our commitment to a greener future is evident with projects like the 3-hectare Iloilo Tree Park Development in Jaro district, set to sequester 33 tons of CO2 yearly, and our vast mangrove forests that capture 29.4 metric tons of CO2 annually. Together, we're making a difference for our environment”, voiced Mr. Treñas, Mayor of Iloilo City, Philippines.
“The City of Kanazawa is honored to be selected as a Role Model City for Generation Restoration. Our city is blessed with a privileged natural setting, being open to the sea, surrounded by mountains and having abundant water resources, such as rivers and natural springs.” added Mr. Murayama, Mayor of Kanazawa, Japan. “Over the years, we have been making unique efforts to conserve and restore urban nature and its biodiversity. This designation is an excellent opportunity to accelerate our efforts to support urban nature and share our experience and knowledge internationally to contribute to the restoration of urban ecosystems worldwide.”
“The city of Manaus is at the heart of the world’s largest rainforest and, like many other developing cities, faces several challenges brought about by the urban growth and, for this reason, the chance to carry out a project to restore urban ecosystems in partnership with UNEP is a landmark for improving some of the city's sanitation issues, boosting tree-planting to connect urban forest fragments and protect endangered endemic species, as well as preparing the city to tackle climate change”, shared Mr. Pereira de Almeida, Mayor of the City of Manaus, Brazil.
"Sirajganj is a highly populated urban area, and similarly to other areas in Bangladesh, the Katakhali canal lies in the middle of this city and is considered its lifeline”, shared Mr. Abdur Rouf, Mayor of Sirajganj Municipality, Bangladesh. “If we can protect Katakhali’s ecosystem, we will create a good and healthy environment for our city dwellers. We are confident that increased sustainability will be possible thanks to the nature-based solution process, implemented with our partners at UNEP.”
"Following the concept of green development, Yangzhou City practiced ecosystem conservation and restoration, cultivated ecological industries, constructed park-city, advocated low-carbon lifestyle, and strived to achieve a win-win situation among ecological, economic, and social benefits”, voiced Mr. Guoqiang Pan, Mayor of Yangzhou City, China. “We will take "Generation Restoration Role Model cities", awarded by UNEP, as our new starting point, and keep trying to achieve the goals of carbon peak and neutrality, and promote the modernization of harmonious coexistence between human and nature!"
“Endowed with a watershed, a national park, and abundant green spaces, Quezon City holds a critical role in fostering a sustainable ecosystem that benefits not just our residents but the entire metropolis. Our commitment to this role is evident through the ambitious goal of doubling our parks by 2030 and achieving 30-40% green and permeable spaces citywide. These parks will be interconnected to create a Green Lung Network, revitalizing our urban biodiversity that will ensure a healthier environment for all”, announced Josefina "Joy" Belmonte, Mayor of Quezon City, Philippines.
“From planting the next generation of our urban tree canopy to improving habitat for juvenile salmon, the City of Seattle is committed to renewing our natural areas so they can continue to benefit our communities,” said Mr. Harrell, Mayor of Seattle, United States. “As a city with vast stretches of shoreline and lush green spaces, we have a unique obligation to restore these ecosystems that are critical to our wellbeing, economy, and resilience to the impacts of climate change. We are excited to join the Generation Restoration initiative and look forward to learning from other environmental leaders around the globe to build the healthy, climate-forward future we want to see here in Seattle.”
“The city of Kochi is committed to developing a better, green and sustainable world for the future generation. We are very pleased that our efforts for the same have been internationally recognised”, shared Adv. M. Anil Kumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation, India.
“Our vision is to make Istanbul a green, fair and creative city. We carry out our entire investment program in accordance with these principles. It is our priority to provide our ancient city, Istanbul, which is a world metropolis, with a sustainable and resilient development model.”, said Mr. İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul, Turkey.
“Glasgow is absolutely delighted to have been chosen as a Generation Restoration role model city, a fantastic opportunity to continue our collaboration with our international peers in seeking a safer and fairer future for our planet. Our selection is both a recognition of our commitment and dedication to environmental sustainability and the major strides we continue to take as a city”, pronounced Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, Scotland.
The Generation Restoration project focuses on promoting restoration at scale, particularly in urban areas. It is financed by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by UNEP with the support of and in coordination with the UN Decade Secretariat and ICLEI’s Global Biodiversity Center.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature.
Co-led by UNEP and FAO, the Decade aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems and restore them to achieve global goals. It ends in 2030, the deadline for the SDGs and the timeline scientists identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.