VUB researchers from Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research and Cartography and GIS (CGIS) group will examine the accessibility and equity implications of Nature-Based Climate Solutions implementation within and around primary school environments, in the frame of the European project COOLSCHOOLS.

The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly frequent and alarming, not only in Mediterranean regions but also in northern European cities like Brussels and Rotterdam. This has led to an increase in the risks arising from phenomena such as heat waves, flooding, and rising temperatures in cities.

The European COOLSCHOOLS project has been launched to design and assess possible strategies that can contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change and improving the quality of life of urban citizens and of children, in particular. The three-year project (2022-2025) examines the transformative potential of nature-based solutions (NBS) in European school environments in Barcelona, Brussels, Paris and Rotterdam.

The actions taking place within the framework of this pioneering project aim to understand the factors and potential of these nature-based interventions for driving social-ecological changes towards urban sustainability, climate resilience, social justice and quality education, and to make the school community a driving force of urban transformation.

NBS make the most of the benefits provided by ecosystems to meet several of the challenges we currently face in cities, including climate change or disconnection with nature. For example, they look to increase green and shaded areas, use more sustainable and environmentally friendly materials or provide greater access to water.

The researchers are going to study the combination of all these interventions from a multidisciplinary approach. As a result, they will take into account their impacts and transformative potential on land use change, biodiversity, human health, safety, equity, education and governance.

The study is coordinated by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Spain, in close collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. As Deputy coordinator, Francesc BarΓ³ (VUB) – professor at the Department of Geography -, will support UOC in several coordination and progress supervision tasks. Francesc BarΓ³ together with the PhD candidate Elsa Gallez and other researchers from the Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research group and Cartography and GIS (CGIS) group will lead a work package that will spatially and participatively examine the land cover transformations and associated accessibility implications of the implementation of NBS in school environments, with a focus on Brussels.

VUB will also support Bruxelles Environment - the regional administrative service in charge of the environment and energy management - in the coordination of the various project tasks in the Urban Living Lab (ULL) of Brussels. This living lab consists of at least 20 schools recently selected in the frame of a new project called β€œOpΓ©ration RΓ©-crΓ©ation” (led by Bruxelles Environment) which will receive funding and support to implement ambitious nature-based climate interventions in their schoolyard.

Besides UOC, VUB and Bruxelles Environment, 14 other partners are involved in this project, including the City Councils of Paris, Barcelona and Rotterdam, universities, research centres, social associations and cooperatives, and international organizations.

COOLSCHOOLS has received more than €1.5 million of funding from the European JPI Urban Transformation Capacities (JPI Urban Europe) call, in which the Belgian funding agency Innoviris is participating.