Nature can cool cities, but proceed with caution

Mabon, Leslie; Connor, Ben; Moncaster, Alice; Pearce, Catherine; Pratt, Eleanor; Shih, Wan-Yu; Tsai, Meng-Chin; Vseteckova, Jitka; Waights, Verina and Wolstenholme, Ruth (2023). Nature can cool cities, but proceed with caution. Urban Transformations, 5(1), article no. 11.



Increased extreme heat events draw attention to the potential of urban nature as a heat adaptation strategy for cities. This is reflected in multiple scientific perspective pieces, policy documents and science media publications advocating for urban greening as a cooling approach. Although attention to the dangers of heat and the benefits of urban nature is welcomed, it is vital that nature-based approaches to cooling are underpinned by diverse knowledge and a sound understanding of what nature in cities can and cannot do. We explain why an evidence-driven and cautious approach to heat adaptation through urban greening is so important, and propose three actions that urban actors can take towards effective and equitable long-term cooling through urban nature: enabling dialogue between different sectors with multiple remits; including diverse knowledge systems in planning and governance processes; and investing in long-term stewardship for the climatological and societal conditions of the coming decades.
Policy and practice recommendation
• Create fora for dialogue between governments, residents, civil society and developers from planning stage for green cooling;
• Cooling through nature must be driven by expertise spanning diverse knowledge systems, combined with local knowledge and community needs;
• Consider future climates and stewardship when planning urban cooling via nature.
Science highlights
• Understanding link between urban thermal environment and nature is an inter- and transdisciplinary task;
• Critical need for evidence of how greening reduces heat impacts across different social and cultural contexts;
• Evidence of how species perform under future climates required for stewardship of urban nature.

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