Finding consensus on measurable targets and indicators for greener cities

Tue 8, October 2019
16:30 - 19:00 CET

Greener cities are healthier cities. Urban green spaces do not only provide space for recreation and socialising but they can enhance a city's biodiversity and deliver services such as flood protection and cooling. Yet, this essential role of nature in cities is often overlooked in urban policy and planning as it may trade off with built urban development. This session aims at suggesting a consensual approach with stakeholders and policymakers on developing targets and indicators for urban green infrastructure and nature-based solutions in cities that are easy to understand and implement.

Laura Wendling, Senior Scientist, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland.
Participatory Lab - world café, ideas labs
A greener Europe
European Commission - DG ENV, European Commission - DG JRC, European Commission - DG RTD, ICLEI
English (EN)

Session summary

Urban green and blue infrastructure refers to the network of trees, green spaces, urban parks, rivers, and forest areas situated within a city. This session addressed the question as to how urban green/blue infrastructure and the impact of nature-based solutions can be monitored and reported.

The session built upon the work of the EU Urban Agenda Urban Partnership Sustainable Use of Land and Nature Based Solutions, and particularly Action 9 of the endorsed Action Plan. The workshop aimed to gather opinions from different cities from across Europe to recommend targets and indicators to support greening of cities.

The Horizon 2020 programme on nature-based solutions supports the convergence of several frameworks for monitoring urban green infrastructure and nature-based solutions into a single framework with a set of common indicators that cities can apply to areas such as green/blue infrastructure management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, water regulation, air quality and urban biodiversity.

Social and economic indicators are also useful. Such indicators are used to evaluate how urban green-blue infrastructure and nature based solutions impact on quality of life, environmental justice, job creation, participation of citizens and stakeholders and urban regeneration.

The session focussed on indicators for three of these indicator categories.

Key common indicators for monitoring urban green infrastructure and green space management combine information on the availability of urban green spaces and their accessibility, for example the amount of publically-accessible green space per person. Use of indicators related to green space accessibility can be applied to evaluate progress towards a specified target and/or support the development of new standards. The development of an urban green space standard (green space required per inhabitant) should consider the proximity and accessibility of green spaces.

Key common indicators for monitoring climate change adaptation and mitigation in cities relate to the reduction of CO2-eq emissions or sequestration of carbon and the moderation of ambient temperature in built areas vulnerable to excessive heating during extreme hot weather. Most session participants expressed relatively greater affinity for temperature based indicators to understand how cities can adapt to or mitigate the impact of climate change.

Key common indicators for monitoring urban biodiversity are, among others, the total proportion and structural connectivity of green/blue infrastructure, the number of bird or bee species, and the biotope area factor.

The indicator framework needs further development to increase its applicability. In general, definitions of terms are critical because the same terms can be used in different ways by different people.

The policy relevance of the indicators is very important. Indicators should address also other green infrastructure-related sectoral policies that can benefit from implementation of urban green/blue infrastructure and nature-based solutions. This is aligned with current efforts to better mainstream biodiversity and ecosystems in sectoral policies.

Take away message

The New Green Deal and the upcoming EU biodiversity strategy to 2030, which will be adopted during the first 100 days of the new European Commission, provide a unique opportunity to deliver an operational indicator framework for measuring the impact of urban green infrastructure and nature-based solutions in cities.


Additional information

Green spaces cannot walk to people but you can bring people to green spaces through clever urban planning of foot and bike paths or public transport.

Honey produced by honey bees collecting nectar in the city tastes better than honey produced by honey bees foraging in agricultural lands around our city.

Urban nature is part of the solution to stop biodiversity loss