Generation Restoration Cities: catalysing a nature-based transformation in finance, jobs and cities. 

Cities are both drivers of ecosystem degradation and vulnerable to it. Urban areas occupy less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s land surface but house more than half of its people. Despite their steel and concrete, crowds and traffic, cities and towns are still ecosystems whose condition profoundly marks the quality of our lives. Functioning urban ecosystems help clean our air and water, cool urban heat islands, and support our well-being by shielding us from hazards and providing opportunities for rest and play. However, through a process of rapid and unplanned urbanization, humans keep on transforming the natural world and create new realities. Left unchecked, urbanization has devastating impacts on natural ecosystems, which in turn negatively affect the well-being of urban populations.

As cities grow, they take space from agricultural and industrial lands that then need to expand into other ecosystems. Adopting nature-based solutions at the urban level to protect, conserve and restore these degraded ecosystems, and mainstreaming the landscape scale in urban planning are key to reconnect cities with nature and mitigate the impact of climate change on urban communities.

UNEP, through its Generation Restoration project (2023-25), aims to implement a package of measures to address selected political, technical, financial challenges to promote restoration at scale, particularly in urban areas, as a contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the Global Biodiversity Framework.

The project focuses on two main components:

  • Encourage and advocate for public and private investment in ecosystem restoration and decent work creation through Nature-based Solutions (NbS).
  • Empower city stakeholders (governments; private sector, CBOs/NGOs at all levels) across the globe to replicate and upscale ecosystem restoration initiatives.

The project will also identify restoration opportunities in finance and job markets, by highlighting the benefits of investing in restoration for job creation, and by showing a pathway to closing the investment gap to meet global commitments on biodiversity and climate.

PILOT CITIES

Fourteen cities around the world to implement pilot projects to catalyse ecosystem restoration in urban areas:

  • Douala in Cameroun is restoring mangroves and setting up of governance structures with the community to ensure their participation in the restoration and preservation of ecosystems.
  • In Senegal, Dakar-Plateau & Thies are creating a greenbelt and blue-green wedges around the metropolitan region, to allow for species movement between protected lands on the city's outskirts.
  • Quezon City in Metro Manila, Philippines, is working with local communities and students to identify urban spaces to transform into restoration areas, and designing of ecological corridors, green spaces and pollinator gardens in the city.
  • In India, the city of Kochi is undertaking a canal restoration to improve the water quality of the Vembanad Lake ecosystem, for the benefit of people and the entire basin.
  • Sirajganj in Bangladesh is renaturing the city’s river coasts through the creation of a green corridor, which will rehabilitate, restore, and enhance biodiversity around the river.
  • The Ecuadorian canton of Samborondon is restoring mangroves along the Daule and Babahoyo rivers. This activity will re-introduce local mangrove species, remove invasives, and restore natural habitats.
  • The capital Mexico City is strengthening citizen participation in promoting ecological restoration, to help the Government bring nature back into the urban environment.
  • The Amazonian city of Manaus in Brazil is promoting agroecology in urban and peri-urban agriculture as a nature-based solution to increase food security and reduce pressure on precious nearby forests.
  • Mendoza in Argentina is leading environmental stewardship by restoring native arid ecosystems and empowering local communities by creating dynamic ecological corridors to combat climate change and promote biodiversity.
  • Curitiba in Brazil is integrating biodiversity preservation with climate action by protecting natural habitats, enhancing urban green spaces, and implementing sustainable infrastructure solutions to create a resilient and sustainable urban environment.
  • In Colombia, Barranquilla's Leon Creek Restoration project aims to improve water quality, promote biodiversity, protect natural resources, and foster community well-being through the preservation and recovery of the once-neglected Leon Creek.
  • In Kenya, Kisumu County's project to restore the Auji River aims to improve livelihoods, prevent ecosystem degradation, and promote sustainable farming practices by restoring biodiversity hotspots and collaborating with local communities.
  • In South Africa, the city of Overstrand's holistic watershed management approach aims to rehabilitate the Onrus River catchment corridor to safeguard water resources, prevent land degradation, and ensure long-term resilience against climate change.
  • Istanbul in Türkiye is strengthening ecological corridors, engaging communities through public participation and volunteer programs, and raising awareness to support pollinators and foster sustainable urban development and ecosystem restoration.

Images: Mendoza, Istanbul, Kisumu and Curitiba

ROLE MODEL CITIES

Eleven role model cities to strengthen advocacy and share knowledge as champions of restoration:

  • In South Africa, the city of Cape Town is preserving and enhancing the natural environment within and around the city’s urban area, including the restoration of the Silvermine, Asanda and Skilpadsvlei wetlands, the rehabilitation and restoration of various coastal dune areas, and the removal of invasive alien species and restoration of indigenous vegetation.
  • Iloilo in the Philippines has been at the forefront of ecosystem restoration for several years, through the management of coastal and river ecosystems, and the protection of mangroves.
  • The city of Kanazawa, in Japan, has implemented pioneering approaches related to urban nature, including enacting the nation’s first landscape conservation ordinance and establishing regulations to sustainably utilize regional timber in urban construction.
  • The Chinese Yangzhou has been conducting eco-environmental monitoring and assessments in the Sanwan wetland area, to enhance water quality, and waste management and enhance biodiversity and soil fertility.
  • Curitiba in Brazil has carried out several activities to strengthen the city’s biodiversity and enhance the quality of vegetation in Curitiba's urban landscape.
  • The Colombian Barranquilla is implementing comprehensive freshwater ecosystem restoration, including through the creation of the Mallorquín Ecopark, the city's most important BiodiverCities project.
  • The Canadian Toronto is a recognized leader with decades of expertise in ecological restoration, biodiversity planning and urban forest and ravine management.
  • In the USA, the City of Seattle has worked with community volunteers for the past 18 years to restore urban forests, through the Green Seattle Partnership, and improve habitat within the city.
  • The Scottish Glasgow has been partnering with the EU, ICLEI and the Scottish Hub of UrbanByNature to implement and fund key ecosystem restoration initiatives across the city and implement nature-based solutions for greater climate resilience.
  • In Türkiye, the city of Istanbul has been working on ecosystem restoration for a long time, with the objective of protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and enhancing the quality of life of the city’s citizens, through the “Urban Ecosystem Restoration Plan for Istanbul”.
  • In France, the city of Paris is at the forefront of biodiversity restoration, through sustainable management of green spaces, the creation of green roofs and walls, the protection of ecological corridors, and regional cooperation with partners.

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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.