European Cities Could Cut Carbon Emissions by 17.4% with Nature-Based Solutions

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In recent research, it has been revealed that numerous European cities could attain net zero carbon emissions within the forthcoming decade by integrating elements of nature into their urban infrastructures. This source-free study by international researchers, originating from the US, Sweden and China, was featured in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. The report demonstrated how, by employing nature-based solutions such as rooftop gardening, streetscaping and the establishment of park areas, the 54 European cities scrutinized could potentially decrease carbon emissions by an average rate of 17.4%.

These nature-based solutions offer more than simple carbon capture capabilities, according to the study. Zahra Kalantari, associate professor of water and environmental engineering at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and co-author of the study, has emphasised that such solutions not only help cities in offsetting emissions, but also significantly contribute to reducing resource consumption and emissions.

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Urban green spaces like parks and tree-filled areas encourage behaviours that are environmentally beneficial, promoting more walking, cycling and other green habits. The study also examined other nature-based solutions such as urban farming, the creation of narrower roads with abundant greenery and tree-life, permeable pavements facilitating rainwater absorption into the ground and the preservation of wildlife habitats.

By combining these solutions, the researchers found that cities can capture air pollutants, foster low impact land use and travel habits, offset city and transportation carbon emissions, regulate temperature, diminish the heat island effect common in urban areas, and increase access to green spaces.

Kalantari highlighted the novelty of the study, stating that it uniquely merges and examines the potential cumulative effects of all these nature-based solutions as a combined system. The study also offers directions regarding the prioritization and optimal placement of these nature-oriented measures. In Berlin, for instance, the study advocates for priority placement of green urban spaces and buildings. This would lead to an estimated emissions reduction rate of six per cent in residences, 13 per cent in industry and 14 per cent in transportation.

The study further discovered that the highest potential for carbon reduction resided within eastern European Union cities, where nature-based solutions could potentially lower total carbon emissions by over 20 per cent. This was closely followed by northern European Union cities, where carbon emissions could potentially be reduced by 18.2 per cent.

The research study concluded that while carbon sequestration – the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and its relocation into a solid or liquid form – is a proven strategy for mitigating climate change, the influence of other nature-based solutions on human behaviour can be even more potent. The study asserts that successful application of these nature-based solutions will necessitate a deeper understanding of the behavioural aspects of such solutions, along with a comprehension of the unique socioeconomic, industrial and cultural contexts of each city.