This is why we need to put nature at the heart of urban development

A new competition is calling for innovations that bring nature back into our cities. Image: Pixabay

Marina Ruta
Business Engagement Lead,
Silje Ditlefsen Zanni
Community Success Lead, Nature-Based Solutions, UpLink, World Economic Forum
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Nature-Positive Cities is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Nature-Positive Cities

  • Between now and 2050, our planet will welcome an additional 3 billion people, and nearly 70% of this global population will live in cities.
  • As cities expand faster than at any point in history, so does their ecological footprint and impact on nature loss and climate.
  • A nature-positive pathway of urban development can improve resilience to environmental and social threats.
  • We must mobilize businesses, urban decision-makers and citizens to invest in innovative solutions to put nature at the heart of urban development.
  • The UpLink BiodiverCities Challenge calls for innovative solutions enabling cities to become nature-positive and fulfil their potential as engines of sustainable development, resilience and wellbeing.

In the next few weeks and months, world leaders will make some of the most important decisions of our lifetime and hopefully walk away with clear commitments to tackle the interlinked global environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

We are confronted by an existential crisis; between now and 2050, our planet will welcome an additional 3 billion people, and nearly 70% of this global population will live in cities. We cannot sustain this growth while continuing on a path of environmental degradation: climate change and biodiversity loss represent a threat to our existence. Unless effective action is taken soon, our cities will heat up to a devastating degree over the course of this century. Storms, floods, and other extreme weather will hurt us all, particularly some coastal or otherwise exposed cities.

Have you read?

We need to put nature at the heart of urban development

However, cities don't need to have a destructive impact on nature and biodiversity. Research increasingly shows that nature can play a critical role in helping us tackle some of these urban environmental challenges such as stormwater management, pollution reduction and climate resiliency. We now have a chance to choose urban development and planning models that helps us transition towards a nature-positive future and acknowledge cities as living systems: super-organisms teeming with life and providing huge benefits to their surroundings.

Accelerating the transition to nature-positive cities or 'BiodiverCities' by 2030 needs to be a priority.

Thirty-one of the world's greatest cities have already committed this year to cultivate and care for urban nature and creating opportunities for healthy and sustainable livelihoods for citizens. Investments to expand, restore and protect urban green and blue infrastructure are essential to make communities healthier, improve air quality and help protect cities from the increasingly severe impacts of the climate crisis, such as extreme heat, flooding and droughts. But local governments cannot shoulder this responsibility alone.

We see around the globe a surge of innovation at multiple levels to support the shift towards a nature-positive urban agenda, also acknowledging the value and importance of nature's biodiversity to provide multiple ecosystems and resilience services.

To further inspire urban and peri-urban 'ecopreneurs', the BiodiverCities by 2030 initiative, a partnership between the World Economic Forum and the Government of Colombia, launched the first Uplink BiodiverCities Challenge, in collaboration with Salesforce.

The UpLink BiodiverCities Challenge is a global call for innovative solutions that enable cities to become nature-positive and fulfil their potential as engines of equitable and sustainable development, resilience and wellbeing. Through this challenge, the World Economic Forum aims to identify, select and showcase innovative solutions that have been successfully implemented and contribute to advancing the global transition to BiodiverCities by 2030, and help connect them to opportunities that can scale and accelerate their impact.

We are looking for impactful and inspiring solutions that demonstrate disruptive potential from entrepreneurs, businesses, cities, or organizations and are ready to be scaled and replicated across cities around the world. This can include solutions, projects, or interventions which are using tools or technologies which enhances biodiversity in urban areas; implementing green and blue infrastructure and restoration projects; providing new financial mechanisms or business models for solving cities' challenges through Nature-Based Solutions; contributing to the bioeconomy; or connecting urban dwellers to nature through innovative advocacy and engagement

The winning cohort of 10-20 Top innovators will be invited to join the World Economic Forum's UpLink innovator network and benefit from participating in a Top Innovator Engagement Programme designed to accelerate their impact and scale their organization.

Previous UpLink innovators such as SUGi, which allows people to invest in nature and turn our cities into urban forests, have gained visibility and attracted large groups of new users and partners eager to adopt their solution, which has led to scaling into new countries and locations.

This UpLink BiodiverCities Challenge calls on many more ecopreneurs to bring forward novel and scalable business models, approaches, tools and technologies that enable us to accelerate the transition to nature-positive cities or 'BiodiverCities' by 2030.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum