|Cities are in an unprecedented position of global leadership as innovators and incubators for creative solutions for sustainability. An oft repeated message from participants in the recent ICLEI World Congress was that to meet present environmental and sustainability challenges, cities must “be bold” in the solutions that they design and pursue. Business as usual is simply not enough.
Cities are embracing nature-based solutions as a primary pillar of the path forward. The ICLEI Montréal Commitment and Strategic Vision for 2018-2024identifies nature-based development as critical pathway that cities must embrace in this urban century to achieve sustainability. Indeed, a focus on nature-based solutions was a primary theme throughout the three-day World Congress.
Addressing the question of how Biophilic Cities represents an innovative approach to scale local solutions, I was a participant in the Urban Nature Forumthat marked a launching point for the focus on planning and designing natureful cities. The forum included a blend of presentations from Montréal based practitioners, representatives from city governments and non-governmental global innovators like Biophilic Cities.
Marc-André Plante, Mayor of the Ville de Terrebonne north of Montreal, presented forward-thinking initiatives from his city of one hundred thousand residents that leverage debt to invest today in planning and designing nature rich neighborhoods. He called on other regional governments to share in funding these much needed endeavors to spur greater biodiversity across the region and raise awareness of the myriad benefits that result from natureful communities.
Montréal City Councilor and Mayor for the borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, Luc Ferrandez, who is tasked with leading city parks and green space initiatives, echoed the bold approach to investing in urban nature now by urging cities to aggressively pursue needed natural amenities in cities despite a lack of universal agreement and understanding regarding the benefits of these amenities. Cities must be the inspiration. He expressed that when projects are put in place, they produce “psychological change” and create overwhelming support for these solutions. Such leadership in Montréal has resulted in the development of more 350 green alleys, the conversion of underutilized streets to green parks, and the recapture of medians as public green space.