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A toolkit to identify the best nature-based solutions for specific environmental challenges

Interventions like green roofs and waterway restoration can tackle key environmental issues. The EU-funded ReNature project developed a toolkit that helps researchers, planners and other stakeholders identify the best nature-based solutions for them. The work will deliver on the EU’s climate goals and allow citizens across the EU to enjoy greener cities.

©glowonconcept #62287504, source: 2022

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All EU Member States share a common goal: becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, and considerably reducing their environmental impact before then. But the best way to get there varies from one country to another.

Concerns related to water supply, sustainable urbanisation and wildlife preservation are widespread. Involving local actors is key to taking on these and other country-specific challenges.

ReNature was launched with these needs in mind. The project aimed to fast-track the implementation of nature-based solutions (NBS). Coordinated by the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology, it was supported by universities in Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom.

“We wanted to promote research and innovation, while addressing challenges related to limited experience and awareness of nature-based solutions at local and national scale,” explains Mario Balzan, coordinator of ReNature. “Over 3 years, we have developed a research cluster to reach these objectives.”

The different institutions involved focused mainly on NBS for biodiversity conservation and sustainable urbanisation. These solutions aimed to foster cities that would support communities while promoting public health, access to nature, cultural identity and social cohesion.

“Together we have provided training and capacity-building opportunities for researchers and organisations. We have trained over 430 students from around 50 countries, either in person or online,” says Balzan.

Among the project’s main tasks was issuing a series of calls for the submission of case studies on NBS specific to Malta and the Mediterranean climate. These were integrated into ReNature’s Nature-based Solutions Compendium, which can be accessed by anyone, from policymakers to designers, city planners and citizens.

A sustainable development toolkit for everyone

The Compendium features a toolkit that assesses the suitability of different NBS to tackle major societal challenges. “Once they’ve identified the specific challenges impacting their cities, toolkit users are presented with a list of NBS that have been used to tackle those challenges in the past,” adds Balzan. “The toolkit also provides an indication of the solution’s effectiveness as inferred from active case-study analysis. A simple system of colour codes indicates how often specific NBS were successfully used to resolve the identified problem.”

Low air quality in cities, for example, is mostly addressed through interventions in public spaces, but the toolkit also identifies five other NBS categories. These include green roofs and walls, interventions in linear transport infrastructure, and water bodies.

“For each of these nature-based solutions, the ReNature toolkit identifies a wider list of social, environmental and economic co-benefits associated with the implementation of different nature-based solutions. This provides an indication of the multifunctionality of each solution and showcases how it can lead to multiple benefits,” remarks Balzan.

The project was also successful in raising research and innovation excellence with a total of 11 peer-reviewed publications, a collection of training resources and 20 papers presented in international conferences. It also resulted in longer-term collaborations and research outputs.

All in all, ReNature provides researchers with an opportunity to establish themselves as leaders in the development of research collaborations on NBS in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. The project was completed in August 2021 but ReNature members have kept themselves busy ever since. They’ve engaged in new collaborations with national and other European partners, and even went international by collaborating with United States and Asia-based institutions.

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Project details

Project acronym
Project number
Project coordinator: Malta
Project participants:
United Kingdom
Total cost
€ 995 905
EU Contribution
€ 995 905
Project duration

See also

More information about project ReNature

All success stories