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Cities Now Have Guidance on Setting Science-Based Targets for Nature

SBTN’s new Cities program will offer a holistic, science-based target indicators framework for understanding the impact of cities on both climate and other natural systems.

Today, on Buildings Day at COP28, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) announced the development of cities-focused science-based targets for nature. Advancing the scope to include cities alongside companies, the Cities’ Science-Based Targets for Nature program’s first objective is to create a holistic, science-based target indicators framework that covers the impact of cities on both climate and other natural systems.

“This initiative comes as a crucial addition to ongoing efforts in understanding the intricate relationship between cities, climate goals and the burgeoning realm of nature-related objectives. It builds on the existing work of SBTN and will help equip cities to do their part to halt and reverse nature loss,” said Patrick Frick, founder of the Global Commons Alliance, of which SBTN is a part.

Nature-positive cities & regions at COP28

The Cities’ Science-Based Targets for Nature program builds on the growing set of tools aimed at helping business at large — as well as specific industries — understand their impacts on biodiversity and the environment and set measurable, science-based targets to ensure their health and preservation. During a COP28 Presidency event today, the Cities’ SBTN program was showcased as a new initiative to help municipalities manage land and water, protect biodiversity, and bolster climate resilience.

The session “Local Ecosystem Restoration for Nature-Positive Cities & Regions” brought together mayors, decision-makers and business leaders to discuss the pivotal role that cities and regions play in championing nature-based solutions. It amplified the call to action for nature-positive development and showcased real-world projects and tools designed to fortify cities against future challenges.

“With this initiative, cities commit to integrating nature into their climate-transition and urban-policy agendas as an immediate priority,” said Eva Gladek, founder and CEO of Amsterdam-based systems-change agency Metabolic — a core delivery partner for the Cities program. “This includes establishing clear targets for the creation and preservation of green and blue spaces. Furthermore, cities setting science-based targets for climate and nature will be seeking alignment and synergies with Local Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (LBSAPs) and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans.”

Why should cities set SBTs for nature?

Cities are the largest driver of environmental impact globally, with an estimated 57 percent of the global population already living in cities; and this number is projected to rise to 68 percent by 2050. In the US alone, building operations account for almost 40 percent of national carbon emissions; in North America, it's estimated that the rate of low-carbon retrofits of buildings, currently at about 1 percent, needs to at least triple in order to meet the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. Both the direct and indirect impact of cities need to be brought in line with what nature can support.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted at COP15 last year, set a global goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. This goal, intertwined with the carbon-neutrality/net-zero emissions objectives being pursued by businesses and governments worldwide, forms a ‘double compass’ guiding humanity towards a sustainable and secure future. In this landscape, regions and cities are emerging as essential catalysts for change in the pursuit of nature-positive development. These targets for cities are essential for guiding efforts in line with the Safe and Just Earth System Boundaries, released by the Earth Commission earlier this year.

Recognizing the vital role of local and subnational governments and other stakeholders in adopting and implementing nature-positive policies, this program seeks to accelerate progress towards net-zero emissions, enhanced biodiversity, and climate resilience.

Consortium

The Cities’ SBTs for Nature program — set to unfold over the next 18 months until spring 2025, at which point initial guidance for cities will be available — is a collaborative effort with some of the world’s leading cities networks, research institutions, and advisory organizations focused on cities: Arup, CDP, C40, Durham University, ICLEI, TNC, WRI and WWF. Metabolic and the nonprofit Urban Biodiversity Hub will act as core delivery partners.

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