Exploring synergies between health, climate change mitigation and nature conservation

Sarah Burgess

Green infrastructure can function as a climate change adaptation measure that also promotes health and well-being. This is the message and opportunity being discussed at the 2017 European Conference on Biodiversity and Climate Change, taking place on 27–29 June 2017 in Bonn, Germany. This year’s theme is “Biodiversity and health in the face of climate change”.

The Conference brings together stakeholders from the fields of nature conservation, health and climate change adaptation to derive policy recommendations for using nature-based approaches to tackle climate change.The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation organized the Conference together with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. WHO/Europe is co-sponsoring the event, and experts from the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health (ECEH) are actively contributing to the programme.

Climate change poses a significant and increasing threat to biodiversity and human well-being in Europe. Biodiversity in urban and adjacent rural areas can protect health, and nature-based solutions can also foster benefits in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“Urban green spaces offer multiple benefits and innovative approaches to increase the quality of urban settings,” says Dr Elizabet Paunovic, Head of the WHO ECEH. “They enhance local resilience and promote sustainable lifestyles, improving both the health and well-being of urban residents.”

In doing so, urban green spaces also maintain and protect biodiversity and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events such as heat waves, extreme rainfall and flooding. This is particularly noticeable within the context of reducing the urban heat island effect during increasingly frequent heat waves.

Urban green spaces: a brief for action

To support policy-makers and practitioners in designing urban green space interventions and understanding their practical implications, WHO/Europe launched “Urban green spaces: a brief for action” at the Conference today. The brief compiles key findings from research and practical case studies. It presents lessons learned and highlights aspects to consider when designing urban green spaces to maximize social and health benefits.