How can urban green areas play a leading role in the fight against the climate crisis?

Cities and climate change

The increasing concentration of population in cities, combined with the effects of the climate crisis, are subjecting Turin and most large European cities to growing environmental, social and economic pressures.

Cities have a dual role in the crisis: on the one hand, they are ‘culprits’ because of the large consumption of resources and the pollution they generate, and on the other hand, they are ‘victims’ because they are hard hit by phenomena such as heat islands and flooding caused by increasingly frequent heavy rainfall and the poor permeability of urban surfaces.

Urgent action is needed to counter these adverse effects. To this end, developing urban Nature-Based Solutions is an effective strategy, thanks to the multiple ecosystem services that green areas provide to cities and citizens.

Green areas serving the city of Turin

The study that Etifor conducted in cooperation with SeaCoop for the City of Turin economically assessed what ecosystem services the existing urban green areas offer.

The contributions of urban greenery in Turin:

  • Contributes to reducing air temperature by up to 5.3°C for an estimated economic benefit of 8.5 million euros;
  • It can capture 138 tons of PM10 and 56 tons of NO2, mitigating the effects of pollution for a benefit of 6.7 million euro;
  • Can absorb almost 200,000 tonnes of CO2 (EUR 14 million);
  • Protects against flooding by slowing down and infiltrating 650 thousand cubic metres of rain (195 million euros);
  • Increases biodiversity through quality habitats (EUR 6.7 million);
  • Generates 4.6 tonnes of agricultural products (810 thousand euros)
  • Provides recreational activities over 11,800,000 m2 (9.8 million euro).

Nature-based solutions against a changing climate

The activity also involved the simulation of scenarios for integrating nature-based solutions into the urban landscape, aiming to highlight where nature-based solutions could be implemented and which would be the most suitable for mitigating negative impacts on climate-prone areas.

This activity included:

  • The identification of the significant risks associated with the climate crisis in the city: floods, overflows and heat islands, as defined in the Climate Vulnerability Analysis of the City of Turin;
  • Identification of the areas at most significant climatic risk: 46% of the city’s territory is at medium-high risk for heat island, and 40% is at medium-high risk for flooding;
  • Selection of Nature-Based Solutions measures suitable for responding to the risks mentioned above: 15 measures differing in effectiveness, cost, co-benefits and complexity;

Four alternative scenarios with different combinations of NBSs were also simulated, and the costs and benefits of each were analyzed. In 3 out of 4 scenarios, considering the total area, the presence of NBSs in the city produces more than double the temperature regulation capacity compared to the action of existing green areas alone. The most promising scenarios from a cost-benefit point of view are those that maximize the effect on flood risk. More information can be found in the dedicated publication.

Restoring value to ecosystems

The study provided the municipality with a climate-proofing strategy that can be applied immediately and can be replicated in other cities for the same purpose.

If you are interested in discovering the value of the areas you manage or are affected by your activities, find our service on the valuation of ecosystem services. If you want to learn more about NBS, discover our dedicated service.