Skip to content Skip to navigation

Sustainable, Livable Cities

Supporting resilient, sustainable, and equitable cities through nature-based solutions

Building off our work on global Sustainable Development issues, we recognized a crucial need for natural capital approaches in cities around the world. Sustainable, Livable cities are a core initiative of the Natural Capital Project.

THE CHALLENGE

By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on Earth, and a staggering 75 percent of them will live in cities. Ongoing urbanization and rising global prosperity will combine to increase the size and density of the world’s cities, forcing municipal leaders to make hard choices in the funding and management of both built and natural infrastructure.

Climate change and associated risks, together with health threats and economic insecurity, press the urban community to find innovative solutions to build livable and resilient cities. Heat waves are more frequent and intense. Sea levels are rising, and changes in precipitation patterns may increase the risk of coastal and riparian flooding or potentially overwhelm many urban stormwater systems. A changing climate may also alter the spread of mosquito-borne infectious diseases in urban areas, and drier climates may put other cities at risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Humans have already made tremendous investments in the buildings, transportation, water and energy systems that sustain urban communities. However, growing cities need to plan for investing in and maintaining infrastructure at an unprecedented rate, while also meeting the mounting challenge of climate adaptation. NatCap works to fill the gaps in knowledge and contribute tools that leverage the full potential of nature in building resilient cities.


THE SOLUTION

Demonstrating the power—and value—of nature can help cities manage the challenges they face. Nature offers its own infrastructure and can help cities mitigate these consequences, delivering vital services that are cost-effective and resilient to disruption.

Our work within the Livable Cities program focuses on three areas:

Urban InVEST

We develop methods and software tools that help quantify the supply and value of urban ecosystem services provided by different types of nature-based solutions in cities–including green infrastructure for stormwater, urban parks for recreation, and more.

 

Equity issues

We assess the distributional consequences of green infrastructure management (i.e. considering policies, institutions and diverse values) that affect vulnerable populations and marginalized communities.

Learn More

Implementation

We co-produce innovative approaches, policies and financial mechanisms with practitioners across local, regional, and global scales that explore nature-based urban solutions and promote sustainable, livable cities.

 


OUTCOMES

A growing number of influential urban networks and partners—TNC’s Global Cities program, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities or 100RC, ICLEI, C40, and others—have embraced the protection and restoration benefits of natural infrastructure as a means to promote more sustainable and livable cities. We are establishing partnerships to co-produce innovative approaches, policies and financial mechanisms with practitioners across local, regional, and global scales that explore nature-based urban solutions and promote sustainable, livable cities. Our pilot projects are in the U.S. and in China and we are working with partners to learn from other geographies (in particular in the Global South).

Please contact Sustainable, Livable Cities Outcome Lead Anne Guerry (anne.guerry@stanford.edu) for more information.
A draft Working Vision for the Sustainable, Livable Cities Program (2017) is available for download.

 

Featured Projects

There are approximately 16,000 golf courses in the USA, spread across a variety of social and ecological contexts; urban to rural, forest to swamp, grassland to desert. Economically, golf courses contribute billions of dollars to the economy and create jobs for local communities. Environmentally, golf courses require inputs of water, nutrients and pesticides and can be taxing.

To increase the resilience of San Francisco Bay Area coastlines and communities to sea-level rise, we include natural infrastructure (native landscape, river systems, etc.) in climate adaptation planning.