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Urban green spaces and urban planning instruments for the protection of ecosystem services: proposals for re - thinking urban legislation in Sicily


According to the Ecological Society of America (2014), more than half of the world population (3.9 billion inhabitants on a total of 7.2 billion) resides in urban areas where 75% of energy consumption and 80% of the greenhouse gases emissions are concentrated (UN-HABITAT, 2012). This data, inevitably, show cities as a patchwork of environmental issues (as well as social and economic issues) and of threats to the integrity of the ecosystem services. The damages suffered by these services, due to transformations of basic territorial resources in the name of an illusory global prosperity, continue to have negative consequences not only in environmental terms, but also in economic terms, as high costs cause poverty and social conflicts, especially in urban contexts. The uncontrolled expansion of the city, as a matter of fact, has consumed the surrounding rural areas, in which the presence of vegetation is necessary for the improvement of the quality of urban life, which is the sum of the quality of life and the quality of the environment. The urban nature is an increasingly important topic in the current global political framework, which recognizes the green infrastructures as a fundamental role in the policies of adaptation and urban resilience. In Italy, according to the last Istat report (2011), urban nature occupies on average 2.7% of the provincial capitals territory, moreover, in 69 of the 85 examined cities of the recent ISPRA report (2015), the public green surface on the total of the municipal territory has values below 5%. Taking as a reference the recently created metropolitan cities, this data affects half of the cities themselves (7 on 14 total, and all those present in the Region of Sicily: Palermo, Catania and Messina). Another indicator of the unawareness of the role that urban nature plays inside the town, is the almost total absence of Piani del Verde Urbano an industry planning tool that has been created as an integration of local urban planning. However, the latter, in Sicily suffers from an obsolescent issue: the regional laws of local city planning date back to 1978, and these are of direct derivation from the national laws of 1942, an historical date, when the reflections on the importance of the impact of urban nature on the production/survival of the ecosystem services, was still unknown. For this reason, Sicily is in a way, very interesting as it is still waiting for a regional reform on urban planning that will have to deal with the current problems of ecosystem services. Starting from these points, this paper – through the analysis of existing planning instruments and of the status relating to the planning of urban nature in Sicily (with reference to metropolitan cities) – aims to bring out the current criticality, aiming to identify some addresses of orientation to inform new regional urban legislation for the management of the territory that should integrate urban nature.