On today’s occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity, 10 cities, towns, and counties are recognized as the United States Pioneers to the CitiesWithNature platform.
Each of the cities to join CitiesWithNature shares policies, plans and committed actions to protect nature, prioritize nature-based solutions to climate change, account for ecosystem services and make sure residents in their communities have easy access to nature and the outdoors. The U.S. Pioneers include:
City of Buffalo, NY
City of Fort Collins, CO
City of Holland, MI
City of Los Angeles, CA
Orange County, FL
City of Orlando, FL
City of Pittsburgh, PA
City of San Antonio, TX
Santa Fe County, NM
City of Urbana, IL
“Our natural systems and urban ecology are what make us the City Beautiful — from our lush tree canopy-lined streets and vibrant public parks to the more than 100 lakes throughout our neighborhoods and the renowned Orlando Wetlands Park. The City of Orlando continues to stand committed to environmental protection, stewardship of natural resources, and climate action, and we are delighted to be an inaugural U.S. member of the CitiesWithNature partnership”, said Honorable Mayor Buddy Dyer, City of Orlando, Fla. “Now, more than ever, we are realizing the important connections between the health of our community, our environment, and our economy. Moving forward in our new normal, we plan to continue to advance sustainability and resilience, and work to reconnect our communities with nature.”
“San Antonio is proud to join CitiesWithNature as a Pioneer City. Established on the banks of the San Antonio River over 300 years ago, our city continues to thrive by respecting our abundant natural resources,” said Honorable Mayor Ron Nirenberg, City of San Antonio. “We have a record of prioritizing investments that elevate and regenerate the beauty and livability of our community as well as protecting the native species, air, water and land that sustain us. Examples include establishing the Bracken Cave Preserve, home to the largest bat colony in the world; committing to the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to support pollinators who migrate through our area twice each year; and conserving land over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, our primary source of drinking water. We know that caring for nature is essential to a sustainable future, and we have prioritized biodiversity, green infrastructure and healthy ecosystems in our SA Climate Ready, Climate Action & Adaptation Plan. Naturally, we celebrate this initiative and look forward to working together as stewards of our planet.”
“Holland is a great place to live, work, and play — due in large part to our connection with our green spaces, which includes 500 acres of city-managed greenspace across 23 parks. We are excited to be a Pioneer Community in the CitieswithNature initiative,” said Honorable Mayor Nathan Bocks, City of Holland, Mich. “Holland is a thriving community with abundant natural and community resources and is known around the world for our historic annual Tulip Time Festival and the work of Holland in Bloom community initiative. We recognize how a community’s public parks and recreation facilities can positively impact the health of residents and the quality of an area’s natural resources.”
Managed in partnership between ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Nature Conservancy, the CitiesWithNature platform is endorsed by the United Nations Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as the official mechanism to coordinate local and subnational ambitions and commitments toward global efforts in halting biodiversity loss and protecting our natural world.
The announcement comes during a “Super Year for Nature”, designated by the international community of practice on biodiversity in the leadup to the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). 2020 was intended to be the year when the terms of the current Convention on Biological Diversity was set to expire, to be replaced by updated principles for preserving nature, known as the Post-2020 Framework. Due to global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, key events on the road toward COP15 have been postponed or canceled, moving the global community to extend the Super Year for Nature through 2021. Local governments are asserting their role in preserving and enhancing nature as part of the Post-2020 Framework process.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us in Los Angeles that the available open space in our urban setting is inadequate, especially in our disadvantaged communities, and also has reminded us how important these recreational areas are for our physical and mental health,” said Enrique C. Zaldivar, Director and General Manager, City of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment. “Additionally, it has pointed out that we need to be mindful that open space access needs to take into consideration not only the environmental justice perspective, but also support the enhancement of biodiversity in an urban habitat.”
“Nature offers many benefits to the health and wellness of those who live and work in the City of Buffalo,” said Oluwole A. McFoy, General Manager of the City of Buffalo Sewer Authority. “From our vibrant and active waterfront, to our world class public park system, our natural assets provide recreation opportunities and support an active lifestyle for all. Buffalo’s location on the shores of the great lakes provides clean and affordable drinking water, and our street trees and urban forest offers relief in the shade on a hot summer day. Nature has something for everyone.”
“Cities are a great scale to implement solutions to our global nature and urban biodiversity challenges. The CitiesWithNature platform provides a pathway for implementation” said Scott Tess, Sustainability & Resilience Officer for the City of Urbana, IL. “Cities learn from cities. The success stories we hear from others or share from our own experience short-cut implementation and avoid pitfalls while pushing the nature and urban biodiversity agenda forward”
CitiesWithNature is open to all cities and subnational governments, regardless of size or level of progress in working with nature. Launched on June 20, 2018, at ICLEI World Congress in Montreal, Canada, the platform is structured so that a city, town or county can decide how involved its stakeholders want to be — the more actively they engage and contribute, the more benefits they will receive. There is no fee associated with joining CitiesWithNature and committed cities do not need to be members of ICLEI to join.
“Nature is the life support of our physical existence. In these difficult times, we realize that nature provides so much more — it’s a respite during difficult times,” said Angie Fyfe, Executive Director of ICLEI USA. “Thank you to the local government leaders who recognize the value of nature in cities and who emphasize this important health, climate, and equity benefit in their communities.”
About ICLEI USA
ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability is the leading global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. Active in more than 100 countries, we support local governments to deliver their self-determined sustainability policy and drive local action for low-emission, nature-based, equitable, resilient and circular development. Our members and team of experts work together through peer exchange, partnerships, and capacity building to create systemic change for urban sustainability.
ICLEI USA is the United States country office of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and a leading technical expert on greenhouse-gas emissions accounting, climate action, and resilience and sustainability planning. Along with our ClearPath tool for local greenhouse gas emissions accounting, we remain firmly positioned as the experts in the industry through our development of the U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the Local Government Operations Protocol, and the Recycling and Composting Protocol.
About ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center
ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center (CBC) is located in Cape Town, South Africa, embedded in the Africa Regional Office of ICLEI. We offer cities a broad portfolio of supportive services through our dedicated team of passionate, skilled and dynamic biodiversity and urban development experts. Through our ICLEI CBC programmes and initiatives we seek local solutions and promote innovation to address the complex issues surrounding natural capital and the degradation of ecosystem services in a rapidly urbanizing world. The CBC recognizes the crucial role that cities and local governments play in the pursuit of a greener existence through efficiently integrating urban development and biodiversity management at the local level.