15 innovations that are bringing nature back to our cities

  • As cities grow faster than at any time in history, their ecological footprint also increases
  • UpLink’s BiodiverCities Challenge called for innovative solutions for cities to become net zero and nature positive
  • 15 Top Innovators have now been announced and will receive support to scale their impact

We live in an urban era, by 2050 cities will host nearly 70% of humanity. If cities do not nurture their relationship with nature, our species will face increasing threats. In this foreseeable future, we might forget that cities are living systems where the positive relationship between the natural and built environment can be strengthened. Natural ecosystems, green and blue infrastructure can therefore help to mitigate pollution, reduce the risk of floods, heat waves and provide healthy air and water. Actions for the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of urban nature as well as the increased commitment of citizens pave the way for BiodiverCities or positive cities for nature where their economic, social and ecological functions combine in harmony.

In October 2021, the BiodiverCities by 2030 initiative, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, the Colombian government and the Alexander Von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, launched the BiodiverCities Challenge. The challenge called for innovative solutions that enable cities to become nature-positive and realize their potential as drivers of equitable and sustainable development, resilience and well-being.

Cities are responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and are home to more than half of the world’s population, a number that will reach two-thirds by 2050. By becoming greener, cities could contribute to more half of the emission reductions needed to keep global warming below 2°C, which would be in line with the Paris Agreement.

To achieve net zero urban emissions by 2050, the World Economic Forum is partnering with other stakeholders to lead various initiatives to promote sustainable urban development. Here are a few :

To learn more about our initiatives to promote zero-carbon cities and to see how you can be part of our efforts to facilitate urban transformation, contact us here.

The challenge was designed and organized in collaboration with the Alexander Von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, Cities with Nature, ICLEI, IAAC Valldaura Labs and the Global Environment Facility. It received 78 submissions which were carefully reviewed and evaluated by the BiodiverCities 2030 community of experts and partners to elect a cohort of 15 Top UpLink Innovators.

Over the next few months, Top Innovators will have the opportunity to share and learn from each other, and BiodiverCities by 2030 and UpLink will work intensively with this group to expand their impact by promoting their work on our media platforms. social media, showcasing them at our events and introducing them to experts and potential funders who can accelerate their ideas.

Here are the top innovators enabling BiodiverCities around the world:

BitaGreen develops software and maps that identify how urban green infrastructure helps reduce flooding and improve quality of life. They provide value by selecting the most suitable locations combined with cost-benefit assessments to identify the environmental service benefits of green infrastructure.

The city of Amsterdam’s RESILIO project addresses critical urban climate challenges related to flooding, heat and water supply, energy consumption and urban liveability by repurposing roofs in climate-vulnerable neighborhoods in Amsterdam.

The Parque Jaime Duque Foundation restores the Andean wetlands and forests of the mountain plateau of Bogota, boosting local biodiversity and attracting visitors to the Colombian capital. In total they are restoring 70 hectares with two wetlands and its land area with the support of the local community, schools, universities, businesses and visitors.

Hot Heart plans to cover all of Helsinki’s heating needs without any carbon emissions and at an estimated cost 10% lower than today. They achieve this by converting low-cost or negative-cost renewable energy into thermally heated water that is stored in large ponds and distributed through the city’s heat pipes during the winter.

The Husqvarna Intellion Urban Greenspace Index applies computer vision and deep learning techniques to supplement satellite data sources with ground data from the millions of Husqvarna machines used daily in parks, urban forests and gardens around the world to generate insights for smarter urban planning and land management.

The community of Idas Valley, located near Cape Town, South Africa, creates jobs and upliftment for its residents, while promoting outdoor recreational activities for locals and tourists, restoring native vegetation and preserving the natural environment.

The Seatizens project of the Institute of Ocean Sciences monitors the biodiversity of urban coastal ecosystems based on participatory approaches. Their platform enables a community monitoring system to increase urban and peri-urban biodiversity while raising awareness and engaging citizens.

Latitudo 40 offers an urban data analysis platform based on satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and geospatial analysis, to develop simple and effective climate action plans and provide a better quality of life. By analyzing a city’s green spaces, urban heat islands, pollution, carbon sequestration, and more, they help cities identify and plan actions that embrace sustainability.

Living Seawalls combines environmental and engineering know-how with innovative design to bring marine life back to concrete urban shorelines around the world. Using 3D printing technology, they recreated the pits, crevices and pools of natural shorelines on modular panels providing a building blueprint for humans and nature and restoring marine life to developments across the world.

PopUP Forest amplifies grassroots efforts to build a more sustainable and resilient urban future. They help drive ambitious policies and investments in biodiversity, green spaces and ecosystem services in cities by integrating nature into the daily lives of city dwellers, pushing politicians towards environmentally informed policies and helping to integrating biodiversity on a global scale.

Sanegry Limited is building healthy and thriving communities by taking an innovative circular economy approach to providing safe waste management and sanitation services for Kenya’s overcrowded urban informal settlements while addressing the food security challenge in Kenya.

Santuario de Aves is an all-female group of Mexican indigenous conservation scientists and experts who seek to transform cities into spaces of coexistence between humans and other species. With their educational program, anyone can transform their yard into a habitat for pollinators and birds, in as little as six weeks.

The Swiss Association of Sustainable Neighborhoods aims to reinvent housing by designing sustainable and united neighborhoods focused on respect for the environment and the well-being of its inhabitants.

The Natural History Consortium enables residents to monitor biodiversity at their doorstep and take action for nature in their neighborhoods. The consortium opens new frontiers for action-led, cross-platform community science to help people understand and unleash their individual potential to create change and take positive action for nature.

Trees for Cities: Recognizes the fundamental rights of children to grow up among trees, with regular opportunities to connect with nature through their daily surroundings. They are physically transforming urban schoolyards into oases of greenery and greenery, which will allow children to access green spaces rich in biodiversity every day, while allowing them to take concrete action to fight the climate emergency and ecological.


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