National Park City at COP15

I’m pleased to be sharing this update from the COP15 UN Biodiversity summit in Montreal which is taking place this week, having been invited by ICLEI to present at the Subnational Governments and Cities Action Pavilion, as part of a panel discussing Target 12: ‘Increase the area of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces, for human health and wellbeing in urban areas and other densely populated areas’.

The Biodiversity COP is a critical moment in protecting nature –  much delayed due to the pandemic, there is a race on to agree a complex set of binding and ambitious targets to protect nature over the next decade. One of the headline goals being 30×30 – to protect 30% of nature by 2030, but alongside this there are at least two dozen other critical goals.

Target 12 is somewhat unique in that it’s the only target specifically focussed on urban nature, and also the only one that is ‘not bracketed’, meaning that there is already consensus from all parties on the wording of the target.

Increasing access to and the benefits from green and blue spaces in urban areas is the bread and butter of the National Park City movement. In London and Adelaide, and soon in at least another 5 cities around the world National Park City thinking is creating the conditions for bring the outdoors to more people, and getting more people outdoors.

By helping people to understand they are part of nature, and that the urban nature all around them is of equal value in protecting and sustaining, National Park Cities open peoples minds to new ways of imagining how we might live in cities in the coming decades.

With 70% to 80% of all people expected to live in urban areas by 2050 re-establishing this connection with nature is an urgent and critical task.

We want more kids to have spent a night under the stars, more families to spend time regularly in the wild places in their cities, to protect and enhance the green and blue spaces that already exist in our cities, and to make our streets, buildings, and neighbourhoods green, healthier and wilder.

ICLEI COP15 panel

Our ICLEI panel was a enjoyable discussion with much common ground around the important role that cities can play in directly and indirectly contributing to great biodiversity, and it was great meeting my fellow panelists chaired by Megan Meaney of ICLEI, Erinn Drage of IUCN WCPA, Stefania Romano of ICLEI, Charles Shulman of Parks Canada, Mike Velonas of Meewasin Valley Authority, Amanda O’Rouke of 8 80 Cities, Mayor Dario Saadi of Campinas, Councillor Cheryl Jones-Fur of City of Växjö, and Councillor Amanda Stone of the City of Yarra.

COP15 itself is a vast undertaking with 10,000 people in attendance. It may not capture the public awareness of the COP27 climate crises conference, but its importance and impact is no less urgent and important.

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