Cities Talk Nature Conference: Unlocking the potential of underutilised urban areas

Urban nature has the potential to provide many benefits for society and the environment. As an example, urban green and blue can reduce the negative impacts of heat waves and heavy rainfall events. This makes the creation and protection of urban spaces for nature indispensable in the context of the climate and biodiversity crises.

Underutilised spaces such as brownfields, abandoned industrial areas, oversized roads and parking lots as well as roofs and facades of buildings offer a unique opportunity to increase the share of urban nature. However, such transformations are often associated with challenges.

The City of Chemnitz, upcoming cultural capital of Europe, in cooperation with Climate Alliance and Ecologic Institute invites you to a two-day conference on how to achieve such a green transition in cities. Topics include: enabling policy and governance frameworks, identification of key actors within city administrations, how to foster cross-sectoral collaboration and citizen participation, financing options, managing conflicts of interest and potential trade-offs between green and grey options for different stakeholders. The conference targets municipal actors and practitioners interested in tapping into the potential of underutilised areas to expand urban nature.


Join us and other municipal representatives at the Pentagon3 in Chemnitz for two days of keynote presentations, pitch sessions, interactive workshops (day 1) and field trips (day 2)!

DAY 1 | 11 May 2023 | Moderator: McKenna Davis, Senior Fellow, Ecologic Institute

9:00 - 9:30


9:30 - 9:35

Conference opening:

Welcome to the City of Chemnitz!

Börries Butenop, Head of City Planning Office, City of Chemnitz

9:35 - 9.40

The potential of underutilised areas to increase urban nature

Ecologic Institute

9:40 -9:55

Local situation:
Green space development in Chemnitz

Florian Etterer, Green Space Department, City of Chemnitz

9:55 - 10:15

Keynote 1:
Using building greenery to increase urban nature: Rewilding our cities one wall and roof at a time

Dusty Gedge, President of the European Federation of Green Roof & Green Wall Associations

10:15- 10:35

Keynote 2:

Using brownfield restoration to increase urban nature: the example of the Emscher Landschaftspark

Dr. Anne Budinger, Team Manager Project Development, Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR)

10:35 - 11:00

Urban nature lounge

Audience discussion with keynote speakers

11:00 - 11:15

Coffee break

11:15 - 11:30

Signing ceremony:
CITIES TALK NATURE engagement letter
Representatives of cities and towns join the CITIES TALK NATURE community and commit to promote nature-based solutions in their territories

11:30 - 12:30

Pitch session:

Urban nature stories
European and Latin-American municipalities pitch their best practice examples

12:30 - 13:30

Lunch break

13:30 - 14:45

Workshop session 1

14:45 - 15:00

Coffee break

15:00 - 16:15

Workshop session 2

16:15 - 16:45

Workshop summaries

16:45 - 17:00

Conference closing


Get-together with the European Creative Rooftop Network (ECRN)
Location: Oberdeck (Am Walkgraben 13, 09119 Chemnitz)

DAY 2 | 12 May 2023

9:00 - 15.00

(lunch pack will be provided)

Field trips to visit different green transformation initiatives under development by the city of Chemnitz:

  • Renatured old train station (Pleißenbach Grünzug)
  • Green roof (Wirkbau)
  • Participatory urban nature project (Saatgutgarten)
  • The challenges of climate-adapted urban planning (pilot scavenger hunt)


Workshop session 1 | Day 1 | 13.30 – 14.45

Workshop A | English, German & Spanish

Ecosystem service assessment

This workshop focuses on an integrated assessment of ecosystem services at a city-wide scale using three different case studies. After a short introduction to ecosystem services and the assessment approach, the workshop participants will discuss and assess the priorities of different ecosystem services for their chosen case study in order to obtain the best result for their case.


Dr. Isabel Melo, Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute

Dr. Sara Maestre-Andrés and Dr. Johannes Langemeyer, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Workshop B | English

Turning parking spaces into parks

Roads and car parks occupy large amounts of urban space. Yet, in the context of the climate crisis, it will be increasingly necessary to reduce motorised private transport. Repurposing this transportation infrastructure provides an opportunity for bringing nature back into the city. However, processes of transforming grey into green infrastructures are often accompanied by conflicts of interest. In this workshop, two cities present how they convert(ed) a parking space into a park. Participants will learn what framework conditions are necessary for such processes, what possibilities a city administration has to initiate and implement grey-to-green transformations, and which arguments can be effective for convincing politicians and residents.


Xavier Romero Hidalgo, City of Granollers

Kathrin Kneita, City of Chemnitz

Workshop C (part 1) | English & German

Silo busting with nature-based solutions

The work within city administrations is organised around the daily business and tasks within the respective departments. However, projects involving urban nature involve shared responsibilities, and require input of know-how from different departments and stakeholders. This workshop explores how nature-based solutions can most effectively be implemented in your city, using a project-logic rather than a classic line organisation approach. This workshop will undertake a business simulation using Lego® to transform predefined conventional quarters into multi-functional neighbourhoods.


Sarah Arnold, Climate Protection Manager, City of Chemnitz

Doris Knoblauch, Coordinator Urban & Spatial Governance, Ecologic Institute

Workshop D (part 1) | English

What does nature mean to us – exploring our connection to and with urban nature

Stories help us to communicate and share experiences. They connect us – to our families, our communities, and to the places in which we live. Stories give shape to living, they draw on our memories, capture our present, and give us means to imagine our future.
In this workshop we will use the Sarajevo Pathway, a co-creative, arts-based engagement process developed during the Horizon 2020 Connecting Nature project. The Sarajevo Pathway uses a number of methods – memory work, body-mapping, immersion in nature and embodied reflection – to (re)establish connections with nature. For the workshop, we will use these methods to ask the following questions: What has brought you here? Where is here/what does ‘here’ mean? Where are you going/how do you get there?


Dimitra Xidous, EM | Path

Workshop session 2 | Day 1 | 15.00 – 16.15

Workshop E | English & Spanish

Policy instruments to successfully implement nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions (NBS) are multifunctional and cost-effective solutions that can deliver greener and more inclusive cities. To achieve this potential, it is critical to mainstream NBS into policy and planning processes. During this workshop, participants will familiarise themselves with a diverse range of policy instruments that support urban NBS and ecosystem restoration, all featured within the INTERLACE Urban Governance Atlas. Building on these good practice examples, an interactive discussion using an agile approach will follow. Discussion topics include: instruments’ characteristics, scales and potential synergies (policy mix), and challenges for their implementation.


Natalia Burgos Cuevas, Researcher, Ecologic Institute
Dr. Grace Yépez and Dr. Nicolas Salmon, YES Innovation

Workshop F | English & German

How to strategically revive city partnerships using urban nature

Use urban nature to revive existing city partnerships! Many cities are connecting to one or more municipalities across Europe or the globe via twinning partnerships. At the same time, urban nature is a topic that is high on the agenda of many municipalities, looking at how it can be used to alleviate the climate crisis, to maintain and increase biodiversity, and/or as a recreational space that their citizens are able to relate to and learn from. In this workshop we aim to inspire participants to develop strategies around using urban nature initiatives as a new focus of ongoing or reinvigorated city partnership exchanges.


Marie Kleeschulte and Svenja Schuchmann, Climate Alliance

Municipal example (tba)

Workshop C (part 2) | English & German

Silo busting with nature-based solutions

Continuation of the workshop (see above).

Workshop D (part 2) | English

What does nature mean to us – exploring our connection to and with urban nature

Continuation of the workshop (see above).

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