Between October 18 and 27, a mission was carried out in Europe, within the project "Nature-Based Solutions for Resilient Cities: from Research and Innovation (R&I) to Implementation", approved by the Sector Dialogues in the area of Science & Technology. The goal was to exchange successful experiences in the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions in European countries and cities in Brazil. The cooperation between the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC) and DG Research and Innovation in such area of mutual interest started in 2015, and is also carried out in partnership with the Centre for Management and Strategic Studies (CGEE).
According to the general coordinator of Applied Social Sciences of MCTIC and member of the mission, Guilherme Weidmann, the Sector Dialogues are an important instrument to promote collaboration between institutions of the European Union and Brazil on strategic issues. In the case of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), we share with DG Research and Innovation the perception that the production of knowledge and innovation is a crucial component in the transition towards more sustainable cities.
The results of this collaboration shall integrate the C&T&I policies implemented by the Technologies for Sustainable Cities Program, an action which MCTIC carries out since 2010, supporting applied research projects and technological demonstration of solutions related to the sustainability and resilience of Brazilian cities. "The results obtained in the first round were useful in demonstrating the potential of the collaboration we have in this theme and, in the current phase, we are focused on consolidating cooperation networks between Brazil and the EU, intensifying the exchange of experiences and establishing a strategy for NBS in Brazil, using Science, Technology and Innovation policies as a starting point”, Weidmann said.
In light of the global commitments made by the countries through the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, Weidmann makes clear the need for a closer look at cities in order to promote more integrated models of urbanization. "It is precisely at this point that the solutions based on nature show their value, offering a form of urban intervention that seeks in the systemic dynamics of nature itself, the inspiration to face the current challenges faced by cities," he revealed.
During the mission and technical visits, and based on the experiences obtained through the interaction with experts, the members of the Brazilian delegation concluded that the nature-based solutions are important for numerous reasons. Some of them are: allow dual use (a reservoir for flood prevention used as a sports court); promote citizen engagement (a neighbourhood-managed community garden that serves as a communication channel with the municipal administration); improve the quality of life of the population (use of green areas to reduce heat islands and to positively influence people's relationship with the city); and make cities more resilient (green areas designed and executed to reduce considerably the effects of climate change).
In addition to Guilherme Weidmann, coordinator of MCTIC, the Brazilian delegation was also represented by Cristiano Cagmin, technical advisor of CGEE, participating to the conference "From Innovation to Common Use", held in Tallinn (Estonia) on the 25th and 26th of October.
Successful Experiences - In Europe, this topic is well advanced, considering the existing events and the creation of specific financing lines for projects in this area. The previous activities carried out within the 8th Call of the Sector Dialogues, which included a preliminary study and an international seminar, revealed a great number of successful cases in several European countries, with very positive results on the environment and on the population. Among these, are actions to increase the resilience of cities to extreme weather events, the recovery of landscapes, innovation in city management and interventions that have a direct impact on the quality of people’s lives.
In this new phase of cooperation within the Dialogues, the mission sought a greater proximity with the Brazilian reality, in the choice of the countries to visit: cities in Poland (Wroclaw and Poznan) and Estonia (Tallinn). The delegation also visited important experiences in Tampere, Finland. For Weidmann, the gains obtained as a result of good practices are difficult to predict "The local context does not always involve relevant economic aspects in assessing the viability or not of reapplying certain experience elsewhere. Therefore, it is important to understand the context. Often, a solution that did not work can bring lessons, since there is a good understanding of the context”, he said.
According to Weidmann, the most impressive city for the Brazilian delegation was Vitoria Gasteiz, in Spain, who "achieved a significant impact of interventions carried out in a relatively short time of implementation". The most interesting European experiences were the ones focused on cost-effectiveness of solutions and on strong evidence-based decision-making systems.
In Brazil, the concept of nature-based solutions is not common, however, a considerable number of good practices in green and blue infrastructure, rational use of natural resources and sustainable urbanization by Brazilian municipalities could be classified as such. Weidmann said that during this stage of the cooperation, an NBS survey would be carried out in Brazil, which will be important in establishing our execution strategy. “Also, I believe, it will be of great interest to European partners."
During the NBS conference - From Innovation to Common Use in Tallinn, Estonia, the Brazilian delegation presented an action that will begin in 2018: The Observatory for Innovation in Sustainable Cities; an initiative funded by the Global Environment Fund which will serve as a platform for collaboration on several topics, including NBS.
Moreover, Weidmann said that the consolidation of a cooperative network between European and Brazilian institutions is fundamental to reach a more precise understanding of the importance of the NBS in Brazil and to establish an implementation strategy in the country. In parallel, a dedicated effort will be made to strengthen existing actions, holding the second Brazil-Europe International Seminar on Sustainable Urbanization and Nature-Based Solutions in Brazil, participating again in Green Week in Brussels in 2018 and launching a publication with studies, at this stage.
Challenge for all - "A sustainable urban planning and an active management, with space for policy-making using innovation and knowledge sharing as engines of a long-term municipal administration, is a possible dream, but still far from our current reality”, Weidmann commented. To continue, for him, the biggest challenge that exists is the need for a paradigm shift. "It takes time, but we have concretely advanced C&T&I public policies to develop and provide society with solutions to support the transition to more sustainable cities. ”The adoption of alternatives that imply a holistic understanding of the challenges of cities and an integrated approach to action strategy, as opposed to compartmentalized approaches with disjointed actions, require a profound change of behaviour throughout society”.
A possible way for the population to contribute to this challenge would be to seek a greater connection with nature, which has much to teach. One of the lessons is that we live within a system with complex interactions and that the action of each individual impacts, to a greater or lesser extent, the system as a whole.
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