Mapping out routes towards environmentally sustainable cities26 June, 2017
With a little help from bees, the ARTS (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions towards Sustainability) project has explored how cities can adopt more transformative thinking and actions, including social innovation, to reduce negative environmental impacts and promote the well-being of inhabitants.
Europe is densely populated, with an estimated 80 % of its citizens likely to live in or near a city by 2020. Environmental issues such as poor air quality, high levels of noise and greenhouse gas emissions are just some of the problems associated with city living that need to be tackled by a multi-stakeholder approach. The ARTS project aims to understand how transition initiatives can accelerate sustainability transitions and to examine the conditions that catalyze change towards a sustainable low-carbon society. The objective of ARTS is to benefit policy, practice and theory and create opportunities for (social and governance) innovation by coupling, rescaling and accelerating sustainability initiatives in European city-regions. The ARTS project is flagged as a best practice and project of excellence by the European Commission.
During the project, the research team realized that activities using nature-based solutions sparked more social innovation in cities and accelerated the transition towards sustainability by creating new and better connections among different stakeholders. A good example of one of these transition initiatives is the Bee Plan in Genk, Belgium.
In 2014, Genk adopted the plan to improve bee habitats, especially on public or communal land to educate and encourage citizens to provide bee friendly features on their property, and to support local beekeepers. The open process of participation and collaboration brought volunteers and local authorities together to tackle common environmental problems (declining pollinator populations, city greening, environmental education, local food production, pesticide use). Today, it stands as a model that can be used for other city projects and initiatives.
‘A key message from the project is that it’s important to think of new governance approaches in Europe that are more collaborative in terms of engaging civil society earlier in the process and taking into account knowledge from civil society when new sustainability actions are being laid out.’ Niki Frantzeskaki, project leader.
The success of the Bee Plan process showed that more sustainable practices can be quickly embedded in formal governance structures while simultaneously supporting a variety of sectors and departments (e.g. city administrations, beekeeping association, local businesses) as part of a wider bee awareness campaign.
Do you want to read more about the Bee Project? Visit the Research and Innovation-website of the European Commission or read the blog and watch the documentary that inspired the project on the ARTS-website.