Cities have an important role in environmental governance, focused both on the urban landscape and on the more remote ecosystems affected by urbanization
The efficiency of cities' governance efforts to address the multiple drivers of biodiversity loss depends on collaboration: between representatives from all levels of decision-making, from multiple jurisdictions, and with the inclusion of the general public.
There is no silver bullet that will ensure cities achieve good governance of natural resources; patterns at the global level are beginning to emerge, but we still need to understand how to assess their effectiveness. Good environmental governance is likely to benefit from a diversity of approaches. There is thus a need for experimenting, fostering a diversity of institutions and approaches, and generating more knowledge about governance of biodiversity as well as urban ecosystem services.
New governance structures for land management for biodiversity have emerged that do not rely solely on traditional market and government interventions, but on other institutional arrangements. Often, local citizens make these arrangements themselves, and they involve private, common, and public land to protect ecosystem services that cannot always be assessed by monetary values. These are governance mechanisms that can provide new forms of thinking about spatial planning and interventions from different perspectives.
There is also an urgent need to create governance mechanisms that facilitate the dynamic exchange of knowledge and resources. Such exchanges can generate innovative solutions for urban biodiversity from the local to the global level. They are also necessary for building local capacities that can scale up innovations.
AICHI TARGET 18: By 2020, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.
At least 40 percent of the world's indigenous peoples now live in cities. Traditional knowledge and the importance it bestows to biodiversity therefore need to be integrated into urban planning. Cities in Panama, Guatemala, Bolivia, Venezuela, Fiji, Samoa, and Indonesia, among many others, possess significant indigenous populations that should be engaged in sustainable urbanization and city management.
AICHI TARGET 4: By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits. Means of production and modes of consumption are dictated by norms, regulations, and negotiations happening in cities. City governments—by their business licensing and law-enforcement mandates, close relations with large corporations, and landscape management tools they have at close range—are arguably THE level of government that can achieve this target.
Indigenous Peoples in Urban Areas
According to an estimate in a 2010 UN-Habitat report, at least 40 percent of the world's indigenous peoples now live in urban areas. For example, an estimated 40 percent of Latin America's indigenous peoples, 54 percent of Canada's aboriginal peoples, and 84 percent of New Zealand's Maori population live in cities. In Chile almost 65 percent of the indigenous population resides in cities, and in Tanzania 90 percent of Masai men have migrated to the city. Several factors have prompted such migrations: land dispossession, displacement, military conflict, natural disasters, the overall deterioration of traditional livelihoods coupled with the absence of viable economic alternatives, and the prospect of better economic opportunities in cities. For many indigenous peoples, migrating for work—both within and beyond national borders—is perceived as a way out of poverty.
Despite finding a few benefits, such as proximity to social facilities, many indigenous peoples encounter substantial difficulties in urban areas. Lack of employment and income-generating opportunities, racism and other forms of discrimination, limited access to education and health services, and inadequate housing are the main challenges they face. In general, disrespect for a wide range of human rights is often the main underlying cause for persisting poverty among urban indigenous communities. In most cases, indigenous communities try to organize themselves to better cope with their new economic and social conditions.
There are, however, examples where urban indigenous peoples have opportunities to improve their lives and to contribute to the sustainable development of cities. The increasing efforts of many local authorities to preserve biodiversity and local culture have revealed unique opportunities to integrate indigenous traditional knowledge into biodiversity conservation strategies and action plans. As indigenous peoples often have profound connections to the land and the goods and services it provides, cities can benefit by engaging indigenous peoples in urban planning and policy. Traditional knowledge can help cities reduce project costs—for example, by improving resource management— and thus contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
Biodiversity Recovery in Greater Sudbury
The Canadian city of Greater Sudbury, the most populated city in northern Ontario, is an important mining center and home to one of the largest nickel ore bodies in the world. Past smelting activities contributed to high levels of atmospheric sulphur dioxide and resulted in the disappearance of most of the area's vegetation: by the 1960's, an estimated 84,000 hectares were barren or semi-barren. In 1978 the city initiated an environmental clean-up and re-greening program. Based on a partnership among community groups, citizens, government agencies, educational institutions, and the local mining companies, Vale and Xstrata Nickel, the program has resulted in the planting of millions of trees and shrubs on tens of thousands of hectares. Together with the mining companies, the city also developed a Biodiversity Action Plan. This long-term commitment to ecological recovery and biodiversity was developed with considerable community input. The plan outlines the actions needed for ecological recovery, highlights the need for education and citizen engagement, and also addresses issues such as watershed protection, food biodiversity, climate change, and at-risk species. With these efforts, the City of Greater Sudbury and its partners continue to showcase the extent to which a community can transform itself through ecological recovery.
Generating Green Jobs in Durban
The Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project in Durban, South Africa, was initiated in 2008 in anticipation of creating a carbon sink to help offset the CO2 emissions associated with Durban's hosting of several World Cup soccer matches in 2010. The project involves "reforestation" of a 757-hectare buffer zone of a municipal landfill site. Indigenous trees are grown by "Treepreneurs," local community members who establish small-scale tree nurseries at their homes. Tree seedlings are exchanged for credit notes, which can be traded for food and other basic goods, or even used to pay school fees. To date, the project has engaged nearly 600 Treepreneurs—75 percent of them women and 19 percent of them youth—who have planted more than 276,000 trees on 240 hectares. The project has created more than 300 jobs for community members, demonstrating that reforestation can provide direct socioeconomic benefits to communities as well as enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In 2011 the Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project was recognized by the United Nations as one of 10 "lighthouse projects"—projects in developing countries that help put the world on a more climate-resilient and low-carbon path while also improving people's lives.
Linking Biodiversity and Traditional Crafts in Kanazawa
Kanazawa, Japan, is famous for its gardens, old architecture, literature, cuisine, and traditional crafts. The city was designated a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art in 2009 and hosted the global launch of the UN Decade on Biodiversity in 2011. Local businesses have traditionally been linked to the city's ecosystems. In recent years, city policies, community involvement, and local entrepreneurship have reinforced this cultural and ecological richness through various initiatives. In agriculture, an innovative branding scheme for traditional varieties of local vegetables— Kaga vegetables—has helped preserve agro-biodiversity while incentivizing the local economy, from seed companies to farmers, retailers, and the hospitality industry. These efforts have also revitalized the traditional Kaga cuisine and the locally made porcelain and lacquerware on which it is served. Approximately half of the city's current vegetable production—valued at more than $US 16 million in 2008—corresponds to the Kaga brand. Kanazawa currently has about 900 manufacturing companies related to traditional craft industries. Its efforts highlight the importance of aligning cultural considerations in the design of local strategies that ensure sustainable use of local biodiversity.
A Public-Private Partnership in Iloilo City
The Iloilo River has played a significant role in the development and economy of Iloilo City, Philippines. By 2000, however, unrestricted development, siltation, overfishing, commercial exploitation, and dumping of waste had brought the river to a critical state. Facing further urbanization and alarming degradation of the river and the biodiversity it supported, in 2003 the city government partnered with the Iloilo Business Club (IBC) to develop a planning process and 10-year master plan for restoring the river. Realizing the need for multisector and integrated approaches, the city and IBC convened consultative groups composed of NGOs, private businesses, academia, religious organizations, villages, and youth groups. A multiagency coordinating body—the Iloilo River Development Council—was established to institutionalize and implement the master plan. The plan has prevented the destruction of mangroves, stemmed aquatic pollution, and established community watch groups to facilitate environmental protection. It has also resulted in measures to conserve and protect biodiversity. This approach demonstrates how multiple stakeholders, including those with commercial interests, can work together to integrate the protection and enhancement of important natural resources into both a sustainable urban master plan and actions on the ground.
Water Supply, Sewerage, and Environmental Clean-Up in Cartagena
A 20-year project (2005-2025) to rehabilitate and expand the water supply and sewerage for the city of Cartagena, Colombia, is providing opportunities to sustainably dispose of wastewater, restore an important coastal wetland, and improve sanitary conditions and access to clean water for the city's poor. The approach includes restoration of degraded habitats, improved protection of a legally protected area, use of a cumulative environmental impact assessment (the first of its kind in Colombia), and establishment of a multidisciplinary expert panel to oversee the design and site-selection process. This project demonstrates the importance of considering biodiversity as part of a project's initial goals. By adopting this approach, the issues surrounding the disposal of 145,000 cubic meters per day of polluted wastewater are being overcome. By integrating the views of local stakeholders, perceptions have been changed and landscapes once thought of as degraded or unattractive are becoming economic, aesthetic, and ecological assets. Not only are sanitary conditions being improved, but the expansion of water-supply services is increasing land values. The holistic thinking applied in Cartagena demonstrates how the needs of infrastructure, biodiversity, and local communities can be integrated in a mutually beneficial and sustainable manner.
Image source: Trey Ratcliff