City of Tomorrow
Malmö, Sweden, and is considered one of the best places to live on earth and is drawing in different populations from around the world. As millennials who value quality of life flow into Malmö, more than 60,000 new jobs have been created in startup, and corporates in EU and other countries are moving their headquarters from Northern Europe. Not only that, the number of tourists is also on a steady rise.
What makes this city so attractive?
The biggest reason lies in its new sustainability. The Bo01 neighborhood in Malmö was transformed into the “City of Tomorrow” where 100% of its energy comes from renewable energy sources in 2015. And the use of renewable energy is increasing throughout the city of Malmö since then.
Moreover, 470 kilometers of bicycle lanes were installed throughout the city. This has allowed 30% of all trips to be made by bicycle, and 40% of all daily commutes are done by bicycle travel.
Industrial city transformed into a sustainable city
The lush green forests and high self-sufficiency in clean energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal power provide the highest air quality in Malmö. However, it was a ghost town that was unimaginably dark until some years ago.
In fact, Malmö used to be known for Tears of Malmö. Malmö was a city that flourished in the shipbuilding industry until the 1970s, and the rise of shipbuilding in Korea and China caused the local economy to stagnate. Since then, Malmö had become a ghost city with 30,000 workers escaping at low tide, and it was more widely known as Tears of Malmö after the Kockums Crane, a symbol of the "world's largest shipyard" and Malmö's pride, was sold to South Korea for $1.
'City of Tomorrow'
Tears of Malmö was transformed into an ecofriendly city through the City of Tomorrow project.
The city of Malmö purchased a coastal factory area and redeveloped the eco-friendly ecological zone "Bo01" with a capacity of 1,000 households. Bo01 district has been redeveloped as a clean and livable city by applying the concept of urban regeneration using 100% new and renewable energy.
How is it possible to run a city on 100% renewable energy? A 2MW wind power plant, a 120m2 solar panel site, and 48 high wind turbines on the west coast of Malmö were built to generate electricity.
In addition, solar panels are attached to the rooftops and walls of all buildings, all household waste from homes is recycled, and bio-gas made from food waste is used to replace automobile fuel. 83 percent of the heat sources come from underground aquifer, 15 percent from solar heat, and 2 percent from bio-gas.
As a result, Malmö's carbon dioxide emissions, which stayed firmly at 2,000 tons a year in 1985, are now down to a quarter of that amount.
Through this transformation process, the population has increased by 400,000 in comparison to when the shipbuilding industry was booming, the average age of the population is 36, and about 40% of the total population is under the age of 29. In particular, highly educated talents such as R&D, finance, and social service personnel moved into this area.
The answer to Malmö's grand metamorphosis was Nature-based Solutions (NbS), which involves solving environmental issues by using nature's own resources such as warm sunlight, cool wind, clean air, water, and soil in a smart way.
What is Nature-based Solutions?
The international community is seeking a transition to a low-carbon society with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Nature-based solutions involve utilizing nature’s functions to reach the goal of carbon neutrality and make Earth sustainable, as well as working with nature to achieve green economy.
Malmö City provides a great example of utilizing nature-based solutions by using eco-friendly methods to provide energy through wind power, solar power, and geothermal power.
Definition of nature-based solutions
International organizations have their own definitions of nature-based solutions. Let’s find them out!
◈ International Union for Convention of Nature (IUCN)
“Actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits” (Cohen-Shacham, 2016, IUCN)
◈ United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)
“Actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, which address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being, ecosystem services and resilience and biodiversity benefits.”
◈ European Union (EU)
“Solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.”
If this concept sounds new to you, do not worry. You can think of it as an umbrella word that includes other related concepts such as ecological engineering, ecological restorations, ecological adaptation, etc.
How this concept emerged and was developed
The World Bank was the first to introduce the concept of nature-based solutions in 2008. Since the 2000s, international discussions became more active as biodiversity loss became worse and global warming accelerated.
In 2008, the World Bank published its first official report on Nature-Based Solutions, ‘Biodiversity, Climate Change and Adaptation: Nature-Based Solutions from the World Bank Portfolio.’
Afterwards, discussions on nature-based solutions (NbS) began to take shape when the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) presented ways to mitigate climate change, adapt, secure water, food and energy supplies, combat poverty and economic growth at the 15th meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2009.
Later, during the 8th World Water Forum held in 2018, UN-Water announced the Nature-Based Solution (NbS) as the theme of the “2018 World Water Development Report.”
The 2018 World Water Development Report pointed out, "The disconnection of water circulation in the ecosystem as well as in the human body means disconnection of material circulation and energy flow. Urban development projects cause heat pollution and air pollution by artificially changing wetlands, rivers, forests, and grasslands."
Nature-based solutions were emphasized as the solution that uses natural actions and processes to facilitate circulation and flow in the ecosystem when building infrastructure.
In 2019, the UN confirmed NbS as one of the nine measures to cope with climate change during the Climate Action Summit, and since then, countries around the world have evaluated NbS as a method to both responding to climate change and enhancing biodiversity.
Recently, NbS has emerged as a sustainable way to achieve 2050 carbon neutrality in the international community, including the EU, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Why Nature-based Solutions?
Achieving carbon neutrality requires reducing carbon at an unprecedented rate. However, no matter how hard we try, it's hard to make zero carbon emissions, so we have to get rid of the carbon that is already released into the atmosphere.
However, the method of directly trapping and removing carbon from the air is not practical because it is expensive. On the other hand, natural-based solutions (NbS) utilizes practical ways to reduce atmospheric carbon in the ecosystem, so they can be put into practice immediately.
Cecil Girardin and others at Oxford University analyzed in a commentary in Nature magazine in 2021 that nature-based solutions could reduce 10 GtCO2e (1 billion tons of carbon dioxide) every year. Half of this is to reduce emissions, and the other half is to increase absorption. Carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced ▲20% through forestation ▲40% through protection of the ecosystem, and ▲40% through management of soil.
For this reason, Sweden and many other countries are currently using NbS as a means to respond to the climate crisis. Of the 168 countries that submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement, 131 countries are using the nature-based solutions as a means to cope with the climate crisis.
Nature-based solutions and carbon neutrality
We have looked at how NbS is helpful in solving the climate crisis.
According to the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC's Third Working Group on Climate Change published in 2022, nature-based solutions in agriculture, forestry and other land uses (AFOLU) sectors could economically reduce greenhouse gases 8 to 16 GtCO2e annually from 2020 to 2050.
That's 20 to 30 percent of the world's greenhouse gases that need to be cut to prevent temperature rise of 1.5 or 2 degrees by 2050.
In its 2022 State of Finance for Nature report, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) predicts that to achieve its goal of curbing 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise, it will have to spend $484 billion annually on nature-based solutions by 2030. More investment seems to be needed in the future.
Types of Nature-based Solutions
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) largely divides nature-based solutions (NbS) into ▲ restoration ▲ issue-specific ▲ infrastructure ▲ management and ▲ protection. And the goal is to solve the social problem of human welfare and biodiversity recovery.
- Ecological Restoration (ER)
- Ecological Engineering (EE)
- Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR)
- Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)
- Ecosystem-based Mitigation (EbM)
- Climate Adaptation Services (CAS)
- Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR)
- Natural Infrastructure (NI)
- Green Infrastructure (GI)
- Ecosystem-based Management (EbMgt)
- Area-based Conservation (AbC)
Nature-based Solutions in the City
As shown in the example of Malmö City, NbS can efficiently and systematically apply nature and its natural characteristics and processes to develop cities and landscapes. It will be possible to design and reflect cities and landscapes in a more nature-friendly way, and to expect effects such as economic growth, job creation, and welfare improvement.
In Malmö, the installation of natural rainwater management systems such as rooftop greening and waterways through urban regeneration projects reduced flood risk by 50% and increased biodiversity by 50 percent (European Union, 2015).
The city's green infrastructure can play an important role in preventing the climate crisis. If green infrastructure such as urban forests, urban parks, street trees, gardens, and rooftop greening are applied to urban areas, it can play a powerful role in terms of carbon neutrality and climate change response.
Green infrastructure is a network of natural spaces or spaces close to nature, such as water bodies, forests, and parks. Green infrastructure is a concept that responds to the traditional concrete-based infrastructure, or "grey infrastructure," and it can be expected to reduce the impact of climate change, improve biodiversity, improve recreational and landscape functions, solve local environmental problems, and promote tourism.
Rooftop greenery can help lower indoor heat and reduce energy costs; urban greening and wetland protection can help prevent flooding; and tree-shaded urban homes can save more than 30% of cooling peak demand.
We can start in our own homes by growing a small garden on the rooftop.