Dozens of European cities could achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the next decade by incorporating green spaces, according to a new study
The analysis, recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows how cities can orchestrate a wide range of green solutions such as parks, street greening and rooftop gardens to not only capture but also help reduce carbon emissions.
The study was conducted by researchers from Sweden, the United States and China. It recommends the most effective natural carbon sequestration approaches in 54 EU cities. And it shows how combining these actions with other climate action can enable cities to achieve net zero carbon emissions and actually reduce emissions by an average of 17.4%.
Zahra Kalantari, associate professor of environmental and water engineering at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, says the researchers have focused on indirect ways in which so-called “nature-based solutions” can contribute to carbon neutrality. “Nature-based solutions not only offset part of a city’s emissions, but can also help to reduce emissions and resource consumption,” says Kalantari.
The results are based on the integration of data from previous studies on the impact of nature-based solutions. These include urban farming, permeable sidewalks that allow rainwater to seep into the ground, narrower streets with more vegetation and trees, preserving wildlife habitat, and creating more pleasant environments for walking and cycling.
For example, city parks, green spaces, and trees encourage walking, cycling, and other eco-friendly habits that replace driving. Combined with other solutions such as green infrastructure, these measures can further improve the urban microclimate by absorbing heat and cold, thereby reducing energy consumption in buildings.
There are also indications of which actions should be prioritized and where they should be placed so that they have the best impact, he says. In Berlin, for example, the study recommends prioritizing green buildings and urban green spaces, which could mean a 6% reduction in emissions in homes, 13% in industry and 14% in transport.
“There are many studies looking at the effects of individual nature-based solutions, but this one pulls them all together and examines the potential systemic impact,” he says. “That is new”.
Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, MIT, Stockholm University, Gävle University, Linköping University, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Jiao Tong University collaborated on the study.
Contribution of prioritized urban nature-based solution allocation to carbon neutrality