Nature Smart Cities: Innovative Financial Mechanisms To Support Local Authorities With Urban Greening

Webinar Recording

Around three quarters of Europeans live in cities. Many of these cities are dealing with the effects of climate change such as heat stress, air pollution and flooding. The high density of paved surfaces, roads and buildings further increase these effects.

Trees, rain-gardens, green roofs and walls, and other vegetation help to cool cities on hot summer days, capture heavy rainfall and improve air quality. Research shows that green infrastructure provides a range of other benefits such as increased biodiversity and improved human health. However, cities often find green infrastructure expensive or difficult to implement.

Nature Smart Cities, is an EU Interreg 2 Seas project which brings together 11 partners across the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and France, to develop a business model for smaller cities to enable more effective and more accurate appraisal of green infrastructure (GI) projects, particularly in comparison with more traditional, grey, approaches.

As an input to the Business Model, Z/Yen conducted a review of the various (innovative) financing options that Local Authorities could consider utilising in the future to fund their urban greening programmes. To date, Local Authorities have struggled to understand or make use of these innovative funding sources, but could unlocking them be the key to rolling out a programme of ambitious green infrastructure projects that helps the UK reach net zero by 2050.


Anna Oxenham has been working at Southend Borough Council since August 2019, where she manages an Interreg 2 Seas project called Nature Smart Cities. The project brings together 11 partners, across four European countries, to develop a Business Model to support Local Authorities to make the business case for Green Infrastructure. The move to Southend Borough Council was led by Anna’s ambition to be involved in more localised on the ground efforts to combat climate change and prevent biodiversity loss. Prior to her new role, Anna worked at the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre for 11 years, where amongst other biodiversity-related projects, she managed the UN CBD mandated Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP). This Partnership brings together over 60 partners from around the globe, working at the forefront of biodiversity indicator development, to communicate progress against the Sustainable Development Goals, 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and for the International Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Phil Back is a researcher working at Imperial College London, and recently completed a project studying smaller cities’ approaches to delivering green infrastructure proposals as part of a wider EU-funded initiative to develop tools to assist in this process. Phil has spent much of his career in and around local government, including ten years running a successful local authority research business, during which time he won the prestigious Market Research Society Public Policy award for his work with Braintree District Council. He graduated from Stirling University in 1974, but returned to learning later in life, securing an Advanced Diploma in Historic Landscape from the University of Cambridge in 2012, and a PhD from the University of Sheffield in 2018.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

11:00 - 11:45 BST



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  • Anna Oxenham.jpg
    Anna Oxenham
    Senior Sustainability Project Manager
    Southend Borough Council
  • Phil Back.jpg
    Phil Back
    Imperial College London
  • Simon Mills
    Simon Mills
    Z/Yen Group

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