Rethinking Urban Nature: The Rise and Value of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in Europe

Ian C. Mell, Sarah Clement

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Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) have been proposed by the European Union as the most contemporary approach to delivering resilient cities in Europe. Through official guidance and funded projects, the Horizon 2020 programme, the EU has positioned nature at the centre of landscape and urban planning debates. However, there remains a scepticism regarding whether the support of NBS as an alternative to green infrastructure (GI) planning is meaningful and appropriate or damaging to existing practices. Furthermore, the framing of NBS does not, to date, extend the conceptual, practical or political parameters of ‘green space’ planning beyond terminological changes. Its most significant contribution to urban planning is the emphasis it places on urban ecology as a foundational principle of all development. To assess the added value of NBS in the planning and management of urban landscapes the paper reflects on the academic discussions surrounding the approach. This examines how NBS are being used to shape support for investment in urban nature but also argues that it potentially creates a schism between advocates of existing green space terminology and approaches. It concludes by setting the parameters for further analysis of how NBS are being, and may be used, going forward to socio-economic and ecological agendas in the EU.


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