Urban planning for the future in Shenzhen

Photo by Brenda Tong on Unsplash / Ke Yuan Nan Lu, Nanshan Qu, Shenzhen Shi, Guangdong Sheng, China

Cities will be essential in helping the world meet international commitments on nature, climate change and sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Goal 11 contains targets to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and in 2016 the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the New Urban Agenda, which defines a common vision of “cities for all, promoting prosperity and quality of life”. for everyone”.

Yet cities face unprecedented challenges. By 2050, climate change risks exposing at least 570 coastal cities and more than 800 million people to sea level rise and storm surges, while unsustainable urbanization practices create multiple social and environmental challenges, including the loss and degradation of nature in cities and their regions.

Anticipating these pressures by using nature-based solutions to create resilient urban environments could help cities better cope with climate shocks and recover faster from increasingly frequent severe weather events. Greener and more resilient cities will also help the world achieve ambitious commitments for a better future for people and nature.

A snapshot of Shenzhen

In China, city governments are increasingly aiming to design and redesign urban centers so that nature is at the heart of everyday city life. Chinese cities truly recognize the tangible health and wellness benefits this can bring to city dwellers.

Shenzhen is one such city, whose history as an innovator and pioneer dates back at least to the 1980s, when it became China’s first special economic zone. After decades of rapid economic development, Shenzhen has recently been designated as pilot city in Chinese projects to explore innovative models of building an ecological civilization.

As part of this work, the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC), together with the newly established organization WCMC Beijing and the Shenzhen Real Estate Appraisal Center, are launching this year a new collaboration.

Drawing on international best practices and case studies, the initiative will help Shenzhen explore how the values ​​of nature can be integrated into its natural resource management policy and practice. This will help reveal all of nature’s values ​​in the city, the many benefits it provides to residents, and the range of economic activities that the city’s natural resources support. The work will promote an integrated approach to urban planning in Shenzhen that can deliver better long-term outcomes for people and nature.

This collaboration builds on recent work with UN-Habitat and the Chengdu Municipal Government, where UNEP-WCMC helped advise on the policy implications of Chengdu’s investments in green infrastructure. This included examining how these investments can help the city achieve its sustainable development goals and contribute to China’s overall commitments to global agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs. .

Cities for people and nature

In addition to contributing to Shenzhen’s experience and efforts in sustainable development, this collaboration will also introduce good practices to other cities around the world. In this time of global momentum towards a more sustainable world, many more cities are seeking inspiration to put nature at the heart of natural resources and urban planning.

For a new wave of nature-based design solutions to succeed, the world must fundamentally rethink nature in cities. Large areas of continuous gray infrastructure are not only impenetrable to nature, but can also disconnect urban communities from nature.

Nature in cities keeps us healthy and well. For example, a national study conducted in Denmark in 2018 involving more than 900,000 people concluded that children who grow up with very low levels of green space have an up to 55% higher risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. , regardless of the effects of other known hazards. The factors.

Jonny Hughes, WCMC Director General, UNEP-WCMC, said: “UNEP-WCMC and WCMC Beijing are delighted to work with Shenzen. We look forward to contributing our expertise in natural capital accounting to inform the sustainable design and management of Shenzhen’s urban landscape through the use of nature-based solutions. Natural capital accounting approaches can inform the type, design and location of green infrastructure in ways that optimize people’s health and well-being while reducing the impacts of extreme climate-related events such as floods and heat island effects.

“I am convinced that this collaboration with Shenzhen marks the beginning of an excellent relationship between the institutions. With the technical, scientific and policy-to-practice expertise of UNEP-WCMC, recently bolstered by the new presence and capabilities provided by WCMC Beijing, we look forward to a lasting partnership.