Health and social benefits of nature – Workshop outcomes

On 27 and 28 January, an IEEP led consortium, with Collingwood Environmental Planning (CEP), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Nature Resources Institute Finland (LUKE), Milieu and WWF, organised a workshop on the Health and Social Benefits of Nature and Biodiversity Protection. Around 100 participants with different backgrounds met over the two days in Brussels to explore how to realise better the health and social benefits of nature, both from a scientific and policy perspective, as well as looking at actual cases and initiatives across Europe. The Committee of the Regions hosted and contributed to the event, which was based on a study for the European Commission.

The workshop began with discussions on the health and social challenges across Europe and the role that nature can play in addressing these challenges. Participants presented and discussed how nature and biodiversity can help addressing a number of direct and indirect health benefits, for example through improving urban climatic conditions, addressing air pollution, mitigating noise, and providing opportunities for recreation and healthy lifestyles. The workshop also discussed benefits for mental health as well as supporting social cohesion. Dedicated sessions focused on Natura 2000 and wider green infrastructure, and stakeholders and collaboration formed the basis for breakout sessions discussing future governance of nature’s health benefits and a roadmap for action.

Finally, a policy oriented plenary session concluded the event, with contributions from a wide range of stakeholders including Scottish Natural Heritage, EuroHealthNet, Eurochild/Social Platform, EUROPARC and ICLEI, as well as from our colleagues in the European Commission, including representatives from the Directorate-Generals Research and Development, Regional Development, Health and Food Safety and Environment.

The workshop included a poster session that featured 20 cases from across Europe illustrating the breadth of initiatives to use nature-based solutions to address health and social challenges in EU Member States. Representatives from 15 of these initiatives supported the poster session and added both diversity and clarity to examples of good practice.

The workshop proved to be very informative and thought provoking, and insight was garnered about the range and diversity of initiatives in nature-based solutions that are under way in many member states. The workshop results be will used to develop a road map for future action and they will also feed into a new project IEEP is leading for the European Commission on synergies between national social and economic priorities and biodiversity.

For more information on IEEP’s work on this area, contact Konar Mutafoglu (kmutafoglu@ieep.eu) or Jean-Pierre Schweitzer (jpschweitzer@ieep.eu).

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