Sydney city view

PlantingSeeds at the Nature Positive Cities Symposium

PlantingSeeds’ Dr Judy Friedlander presented at the recent EIANZ 2024 Nature Positive Cities Symposium in Sydney. She joined governmental, academic and business leaders to discuss how urban areas can rise to the challenge of supporting biodiversity.

The conference at Sydney’s Sheraton Grand was focused on cities with key stats coming into play:

  • 68 per cent of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities globally by 2050 and an estimated 90 per cent of Australians now live in urban areas
  • 30 per cent of threatened species in Australia live in cities

As a precursor to the first Global Nature Positive Summit in Sydney in early October 2024, the symposium featured a welcome by the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, and Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore with keynote and plenary speakers from across industry, government and academia.

Dr Judy’s presentation ‘The B&B Highway: Boosting urban biodiversity through a successful school, corporate and university initiative’ focused on PlantingSeeds’ practical and educational urban regenerative corridor project in three States with research showing that the cumulative impacts of many smaller green patches can have similar biodiversity values to a large area.

Biodiversity monitoring of a sample of the 150 + B&Bs (Bed & Breakfasts for Birds, Bees and Biodiversity) already established in NSW, Queensland and Victoria shows a healthy increase in ranges and levels of pollinators and plants in locations.

Opportunities to work with local governments and companies such as A W EdwardsKingspan GroupK&L GatesWestern Sydney International AirportLandscape Foundation of Australia LtdBendigo and Adelaide Bank, and Rotary Club have meant that the B&B Highway can continue to regenerate urban areas through local corridors and support threatened birds, bees and other pollinators. The PlantingSeeds’ organisation also supports native and endemic plants wherever our B&Bs are located.

An increasing number of organisations see the B&B Highway as an effective tool to help our urban areas regenerate and a way in which staff can assist practically through going into school B&Bs for example – aligning with ESG and CSR programs. PlantingSeeds’ Lunch ‘n Learns are also popular with organisations.

As Rob Stokes, as Interim Chair of Net Zero Cities CRC, said at the Nature Positive Cities Symposium: ‘We can’t solve our environmental crisis without making cities part of the solution.’

His previous roles as Australia’s first ever minister for Active Transport, and first ever Minister for Public Spaces in the NSW Government, impressed upon him the importance of ‘top down and bottom up’ actions to tackle the huge biodiversity crisis happening on our watch.

The Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in December 2022 under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, nature’s equivalent of the Paris Climate Agreement, ended with an historic agreement signed by 190 governments.

This was to undertake actions with the aim of protecting 30% of the Earth's surface, including land and oceans, by 2030. This is a target both the Australian Federal government and state and territory governments have committed to domestically.

The symposium’s presentations asked how this is to happen, who is going to implement it, and what incentives and penalties are likely to apply. Will it be the carrot or the stick that will dominate?

Some take-homes from the symposium:

  • Recognition of the current challenges – and inadequacies – of legal and policy governmental frameworks to foster healthy biodiversity
  • An expectation that this is highly likely to change with the urgency around biodiversity loss and political and corporate interests in the area
  • A positive view that Climate COP has now ‘embraced’ nature resulting in a greater international and domestic governmental focus
  • Acceptance of the complexity of biodiversity and the challenges this presents to create monitoring tools
  • However, biodiversity monitoring tools are proliferating, and many practitioners are promoting their biodiversity monitoring tools
  • Credit schemes have the potential to provide opportunities for biodiversity funding
  • Local governments are increasingly active in the biodiversity area attempting to create nature positive areas
  • Clarity is required on what ‘nature positive’ means – is it reducing the impact of development on nature or increasing its quotient, in which case, from what base? There is a healthy discussion on different terms – nature positive, nature repair, green equity, natural capital, etc
  • An interesting concept to consider is the T(h)rees for Trees rule: 3:30:300 – everyone should be able to see three trees, with 30% canopy in the neighbourhood, and be 300 metres from a high quality green public space
  • Canopy covers are important – but not to be at the expense of layered greening. Questions are around: How many trees? What types of species? What amount of percentage of space? Where to plant? Annual planting rate?
  • ‘Naturally’, there are many ‘nature’ acronyms – ‘alphabetti spaghetti’ – GBF (Global Biodiversity Framework), TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures), IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), BOS (Biodiversity Offsets Scheme), etc.

Importantly, watch this space!