SDGs symposium 2023 - Cities and nature: exploring linkages and designing solutions for sustainability

SDG 2023 symposium © Andriy Onufriyenko/Moment/Getty

In the past decades, many parts of the world have undergone rapid urbanization transitions, which have resulted in most people currently living in cities. Cities have become major centers of economic activity and innovation globally.  At the same time, urban populations have also emerged as major consumers of materials from increasingly longer distances. Although urbanization transitions have unfolded through different trajectories across the world, they are almost always characterized by substantial shifts in lifestyles, and production and consumption patterns. Furthermore, urban activities are also major sources of pollution and greenhouse gases emissions, driving climate change and ecosystem degradation. In this sense, urbanization has affected nature and ecosystems further and further away through very different pathways. 

At the same time, many cities and their residents are becoming even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, whether through higher exposure to more frequent and stronger climatic hazards, or increased scarcity of resources such as water. In many cities, particularly in the Global South, the pace of urbanization is faster than the capacity of local and national governments to develop infrastructure that is also resilient to climate change. 

What should be acknowledged is that many urban processes, ranging from consumption and waste generation to access to infrastructure and resources, sharpen inequalities within and among cities, and between urban and rural areas. For example, many cities in the Global South are characterized by high informality, poverty, and unequal access to resources, making them much more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other socioeconomic risks. 

Arguably, to both enhance urban sustainability and reduce the impacts of accelerated urbanization, there is a need for different innovative solutions and interventions that, among others, seek to develop climate-resilient infrastructure via nature-based solutions, facilitate shifts to more sustainable lifestyles with lower environmental impact, or improve the livability of cities leveraging the multiple tangible and intangible benefits provided by nature. Such interventions should seek to reduce pervasive inequalities existing within and among cities (and between urban and rural areas), if we are to ensure a sustainable urbanization trajectory that does not compromise nature. This is particularly important for rapidly growing cities of the Global South where poor formal governance, limited social safety nets, and lack of formal infrastructure already make it difficult for majority of the urban dwellers to live sustainably.

The 2023 SDGs Symposium will explore intersections between cities and nature, both in terms of how cities and urban activities affect nature, as well as how nature can help solve urban challenges. Research at the interface of SDG11 (Sustainable cities and communities), SDG13 (Climate action), SDG15 (Life on earth) and SDG3 (Good health and wellbeing) is the focal point of the Symposium.  

To highlight these transdisciplinary connections and to achieve progress and impact, the University of Tokyo and Springer Nature is co-hosting a symposium on 28 February 2023 (in English). In alignment with the UTokyo Compass strategy, this event is an effort to provide ideas and perspectives for early career researchers seeking to conduct impactful and transformative urban-related research.

We wish to take this opportunity to invite renowned researchers from Japan and abroad, as well as students and young researchers, working at this interface of cities, nature, and SDGs to actively discuss how research can explain these multifaceted phenomena and develop solutions with high societal relevance and impact. 

Sustainable Development Goals: Good health and well-being
Sustainable Development Goals:
Sustainable Development Goals:


Student Event

15:00 - 16:00    Student Poster Session  

          Please see "Call for Poster" section for more information

SDGs Symposium   

16:30 - 16:40 Opening Remarks:  Teruo Fujii (President, The University of Tokyo)

16:40 - 17:00 Keynote 1:  Xuemei Bai (Professor, Australian National University; Visiting Professor, The University of Tokyo)

  • Connecting cities to nature, environment and the planet

17:00 - 17:20 Keynote 2:  Philip Campbell (Editor-in-Chief, Springer Nature)

  • Research and publishing for societal challenges and impact

17:20 - 17:25         Break

17:25 - 18:05         Panel presentations

  • Trends in urban sustainability research (Thomas Elmqvist, Professor, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor, The University of Tokyo) 
  • Human-nature interactions to enhance human health and environmental sustainability in cities (Masashi Soga, Associate Professor, The University of Tokyo)
  • Green space planning for all: Thoughts from the perspective of urban gardening (Naomi Shimpo, Lecturer, University of Hyogo)
  • Bridging urban science and policy (Monica Contestabile, Chief Editor, Nature Sustainability, Springer Nature)

18:05 - 18:15         Break

18:15 - 19:25         Panel Discussion (with all presenters)
                             Moderator: Yasuko Kameyama (Professor, The University of Tokyo)
19:25 - 19:30         Closing Remarks
                             Antoine Bocquet (Managing Director, Springer Nature Japan)

Speaker Information (Listed by order of presentation)

Teruo Fujii

President, The University of Tokyo

undefined undefined

Teruo Fujii became the 31th President of the University of Tokyo on April 1, 2021, with a six-year term. He was previously Executive Vice President in charge of finance and external relations for the university. He also served as Director General of Institute of Industrial Sciences (IIS) of the university from 2015 to 2018. He received his Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Tokyo in 1993, held research positions at IIS and RIKEN Institute, and became a professor of IIS in 2007. Prof. Fujii has served as an Executive Member (part-time) of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan since March 2021. He was also an advisor to Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) from 2005 to 2007, Co-director of LIMMS-CNRS/IIS, a joint research lab between CNRS, France, and IIS, from 2007 to 2014, and the President of Chemical and Biological Microsystems Society (CBMS) from 2017 to 2019. Dr. Fujii’s research specializes in applied microfluidics systems and underwater technology.

Xuemei Bai

Professor, Australian National University; Visiting Professor, The University of Tokyo

undefined undefined

Professor, Australian National University; Visiting Professor, The University of Tokyo
Xuemei Bai is a Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University (ANU) and a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Future Initiatives (IFI), at The University of Tokyo. She joined ANU in 2011, as a Professor of Urban Environment and Human Ecology at the Fenner School of Environment and Society. Before that she was a Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO, visiting professor at Yale University, and senior researcher at environmental research institutes in Japan. Her research focuses on several frontiers of urban sustainability science and policy, including drivers and consequence of urbanization, structure, function, processes, and evolution of urban socio-ecological systems, urban metabolism, urban sustainability experiments and transition, among others. She is a member of Earth Commission, where she leads its Working Group 5 on cross scale translation of Earth System boundaries into cities and businesses. She was an inaugural member of the Science Committee of Future Earth, and Co-Chair of its Urban Knowledge-Action Network. She is a Fellow of Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia since 2017, and was named one of the World's 100 Most Influential People in Cliamte Change Policy in 2019 and 2022. She is the 2018 Laureate of the Volvo Environment Prize, and won the 2021 Global Economy Prize

Philip Campbell

Editor in Chief, Springer Nature

undefined undefined

Sir Philip Campbell has been Editor-in-Chief of Springer Nature since 2018 and previously served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Nature between 1995 and 2018. Prior to this he was the Founding Editor of Physics World in the UK and Physical Science Editor for Nature. Sir Philip received his PhD from the University of Leicester and his doctoral and post-doctoral work was on the physics of the ionized upper atmosphere. He has worked with multiple international organizations including the UK government, the EU and the US National Institutes of Health on science and its impacts on society. He is an elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a former Trustee of Cancer Research UK and a Founding Trustee and former Chair of MQ: transforming Mental Health. Sir Philip was knighted in 2015 for his services to Science.

Thomas Elmqvist

Professor, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor, The University of Tokyo

undefined undefined

Thomas Elmqvist is a Professor in Natural Resource Management at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. His research is focused on urbanization, urban ecosystem services, land use change, natural disturbances and components of resilience including the role of social institutions. He has led and coordinated several major international interdisciplinary research projects, such as the UN-initiated global project “Cities and Biodiversity Outlook” and the Future Earth Project “Urban Planet”. He currently serves as Editor in chief for the Nature Research journal “npj Urban Sustainability”. He received the Biodiversa prize 2018 for “Excellence in science and impact” and the Ecological Society of America 2019 prize for best paper in “Sustainability Science”.

Masashi Soga

Associate Professor, The University of Tokyo

undefined undefined

Masashi Soga is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo. He is an applied ecologist interested in interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research. His current research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of direct interactions between people and nature. He is interested in how people interact with nature in their everyday lives, and how these interactions affect health and wellbeing and pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour. He received the Nice Step Researcher Award 2021 from the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Naomi Shimpo

Lecturer, University of Hyogo

undefined undefined

Naomi Shimpo is a Lecturer at the Graduate School of Landscape Design and Management, University of Hyogo/ Awaji Landscape Planning and Horticultural Academy. She is also a Specially-appointed Lecturer at the Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, University of Tohoku. Before that she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Tsukuba. She obtained her PhD at the University of Tokyo, and held visiting appointments at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, and Lincoln University in New Zealand. Dr. Shimpo's background is in landscape planning. Her main research interests lie in the functions of urban gardening, especially in relation to diverse societal and environmental challenges such as social cohesion, disaster recovery and climate change.

Monica Contestabile

Chief Editor, Nature Sustainability 

undefined undefined

Monica Contestabile is the Chief Editor of Nature Sustainability at Springer Nature. She Joined Springer Nature in 2011 as a Senior Editor at Nature Climate Change, and was the first social science editor in the Nature family. In 2015 she moved to Nature, where she served as Senior Strategy Editor developing the company’s editorial and publishing strategy about sustainability, before becoming the launching Chief Editor of Nature Sustainability in 2016. Monica obtained a PhD in environmental and development economics at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. She then held a visiting professor position at University Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, and subsequently joined the sustainable consumption team at WWF-UK where she gained invaluable experience about the challenges of bridging the gap between research and policy domains.

Antoine Bocquet

Managing Director, Springer Nature Japan

undefined undefined

Antoine Bocquet is Vice President Institutional Sales, Japan, Southeast Asia and Oceania for Springer Nature, based in Tokyo, and has over 20 years’ experience in the academic publishing industry in the Asia-Pacific. He also holds the position of Managing Director of the Springer Nature companies in Japan. He is responsible for all Institutional sales in the regions of Japan, Southeast Asia and Oceania, and during his career has led publishing programs in Asia, founded a medical communications business in Japan and been a book commissioning editor. An Australian by birth, Tony holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo (Physics) and is a graduate of Griffith University in Brisbane. He has lived permanently in Japan since 1994.


Yasuko Kameyama

Professor, The University of Tokyo

undefined undefined

Yasuko Kameyama is Professor at the Sustainable Society Design Center, University of Tokyo. Before joining the University of Tokyo, she held multiple roles at the National Institute for Environmental Science (NIES) since 1992, most recently as the Director of Social Systems Division of NIES. Her expertise is on international cooperation on climate change and sustainability indicators, especially in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among other honors, she is a Board member of Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies Japan, a Board member of Society of Environmental Science Japan, and a Member of the Science Council of Japan.


Springer Logo