City/Region : Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council , Spain

Vitoria-Gasteiz has embarked on a process to design and implement an Urban Green Infrastructure Plan. This process aims to explore the usefulness of different urban green infrastructure solutions in mitigating climate change and promoting adaptation in the city, and will involve the study of ecosystem services, the concept of multifunctionality and its associated benefits. The outcomes are expected to lead to a better understanding of the city’s urban dynamics and a better appraisal of the potential to integrate such measures into land use planning.

Agendas addressed
Urban mobilityBiodiversityGreenfield land and natural space
Water resources and air qualityClimate changePublic space
Local economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council  2015 / Restoring the riverbank wooded ecosystem along the Batán stream

Vitoria-Gasteiz (245,000 inhabitants) currently has a peripheral Green Belt with a surface area of 645 ha. It is home to wetlands recognised by the Ramsar Convention and several areas included within the Natura 2000 Network.  However, there are still a number of degraded areas around the city that require considerable effort to be restored to their natural state. Moreover, to strengthen the existing Green Belt, the need has been identified to join up those green spaces by means of green corridors, and to create new corridors by means of intervention to the urban fabric, creating an Inner Green Belt.

In Action
Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council (2015) / Filter trench at Lakuabizkarra

The transformative action involves the examination of processes to implement actions in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation related to nature-based solutions. It comprises a set of solutions applied to different urban settings: naturalisation of green area and plots in recently developed neighbourhoods, tree planting along the Green Belt and reforming consolidated urban areas by incorporating green infrastructure.

Lakuabizkarra is a recently developed neighbourhood with numerous green areas that, in general, have low public use and entail a great deal of maintenance.   Furthermore, numerous vacant public plots exist with a low immediate prospect of development.  24 measures have been implemented, such as adding trees along roads, planting species more adapted to the local climate, cultivating a timber forest, introducing low maintenance gardening systems, and creating natural meadows and ponds and shelters for the fauna, etc.

In 2012, “The Roots of Tomorrow, 250,000 Trees and Citizens" project was launched to complete ecological connections between the areas of the peripheral Green Belt, as well as to improve the quality of some of its degraded zones. The initiative sought to improve its ecological functionality, turning it into the central element of the Vitoria-Gasteiz Green Infrastructure, along with promoting social participation and the involvement of the private sector by raising awareness of the need to enhance biodiversity given its important role in the fight against climate change and other socio-ecosystemic benefits. It envisaged a wide range of interventions in 51 spaces with little or no tree cover, which are aimed at restoring river banks, correcting erosive processes and improving the local habitat, among others.

Finally, the comprehensive reform of one of the city’s main streets (Avenida Gasteiz) was carried out between 2012 and 2014. It was the first intervention implemented in the framework of the Green Infrastructure Plan and marked the start of building the Inner Green Belt, while addressing different aspects of urban management: public space, mobility, biodiversity, energy and water.

Useful documents:

- 250,000 trees and shrubs for the Green Belt. Weaving Vitoria-Gasteiz’s Green Infrastructure (2012). Environmental Studies Centre. Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council

- The Inner Green Belt. Towards an Urban Green Infrastructure  in Vitoria-Gasteiz (2012). Environmental Studies Centre. Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council

- Vitoria-Gasteiz’s Urban Green Infrastructure. Proposal document. (2014). Environmental Studies Centre. Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council




The Lakuabizkarra project has managed to increase the biological diversity of its green spaces and their spatial and ecological connectivity, improve air quality, shade and climate regulation, and enhance runoff water infiltration.  The measures involved the movement of over 11,000 m3 of earth and planting around 20,000 plants (2,100 trees, 17,000 shrubs), along with creating over 12,700 m2 of flower meadows.

Over 165.000 plants have been added to 47 locations along the Green Belt thanks to the support of 13 companies, which have become protectors (a status that allows economic contributions to be made to finance the project), and over 10 institutions and NGOs. The general public was also involved (over 2,500 citizens took part in the planting campaigns and over 3,000 students in school campaigns). The project was awarded Best Practice status at the 10th Dubai International Awards for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment in Urban Settings 2014.

As part of the Inner Green Belt project, pedestrianisation measures have been adopted, car parks eliminated, and an urban path and a main bike route installed. As regards biodiversity, an urban green corridor has been created with a former river ecosystem restored. Furthermore, a green roof and frontage were installed as part of the refurbishment of the Europe Congress Centre. Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) have been introduced to improve water management.


The transformative Transformative action Action has led to a significant increase in the carbon sink absorption capacity in the municipal district, with the ensuing reduction of the environmental impact due tomeaning a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

On the other hand, the action of tThe Lakuabizkarra green infrastructure has led to CO2 absorption of 2,697 t CO2e, with a 40-year period being taken as the  calculation benchmark. On the other hand, the planting of a total of 164,893 plants along the Anillo Verde [Green Belt] has resulted in absorption of 26,390 t CO2e, with a 40-year period being taken as the calculation benchmark.

Furthermore, these actions have a positive direct impact on other areas more closely related to local adaptation to climate change, such as improving air quality or and the regulatory effect of on the urban temperature.

In addition, the project has had a positive impact in terms of the restoration of degraded areas, with an increase and improvement of the biodiversity, and where native species have been planted.

From the point of view of the social impact, the project has managed to mobilise a signification part of the general and school-age population, thus generating an emotional bond among those people and the grey-to-green areas, . with the ensuing enhancement of their level of environmental awarenessThis has led to a great increase in environmental awareness.

Finally, from the economic perspective, the involvement of private companies in the initiative has strengthened their commitment to the city and its environment, along with improving their public image. Furthermore, purchasing the plants from local nurseries, along with contracting some planting work, has economically benefitted the local economy and companies.

Challenges and lessons learned

Vitoria-Gasteiz has planned and is deploying a strategy against climate change by means of a series of mitigation and adaptation measures, including nature-based solutions. Their development requires a new paradigm in urban planning, one that includes ecosystems and the ecosystemic services in the running of the city, adhering to the urban green infrastructure concept. The multifunctionality of these policies allows progress to be made in climate action through low-cost measures, which lead to economic, social and environmental benefits in the Municipality.



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