Human societies are facing a broad range of challenges in urban, rural and natural areas: climate change, unsustainable urbanisation, natural disasters, threats to food security, biodiversity loss, air pollution, degradation of natural capital and ecosystem services, or water quality and scarcity.


Positioning Europe as world leader in innovation through nature based solutions to these challenges to simultaneously improve economic (new products, services, business models, mobilization of new investments), social (jobs, wellbeing, community solidarity and health) and environmental (preservation and restoration of biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services, sustainable land use and spatial planning, land take and soil sealing, as well as reduced air and noise pollution) resilience of rural and natural areas by taking into account the wider system and aiming at ecological stability. Nature-based solutions are inspired and supported by nature and simultaneously provide environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits. Nature-based solutions, such as well-connected green and blue infrastructure, green and unsealed surfaces in cities, green roofs, natural water retention measures, and salt marshes and dunes for coastal protection, use the properties and functions of ecosystems to provide water regulation, flood risk protection, climate change adaptation, etc. They are designed to bring more nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted and systemic interventions. They are locally attuned, resource efficient, multi-purpose, multi-functional and multi-beneficial. These key features of nature-based solutions make them different from 'grey' infrastructure, such as artificial river banks, dikes, etc. Robust EU-wide evidence of the cost-effectiveness and longer-term social, economic, cultural and ecological benefits of these solutions is currently lacking and this has prevented their wider deployment.

The outcomes of the Horizon 2020 Expert Group on nature-based solutions have been largely taken into account in prioritising the challenges identified in this part of the call to be addressed through the deployment of nature-based solutions and the knowledge gaps for which further evidence is necessary.

The European Sustainable Cities Platform was launched in 2016, following the 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns in the Basque Country. Supported by the City of Aalborg, Denmark, and The Basque Country, it focuses on the uptake of The Basque Declaration, which is the main outcome of the 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns. The platform provides inspiring examples of Transformative Actions (in line with The Basque Declaration) database which aims to inspire others with stories of transformation submitted by cities and organisations. Visit the platform and get inspired, or inspire others by submitting your own Transformative Actions here.