Urban areas are the source of many of today’s environmental challenges – not surprisingly, since three out of four Europeans live in towns and cities. Local governments and authorities can provide the commitment and innovation needed to tackle and resolve many of these problems.
One of the policy tools the European Commission is using to address these challenges is the European Green Capital Award (EGCA), which recognises and rewards local efforts to improve the environment, the economy and the quality of life in cities. The EGCA is given each year to a city, not necessarily a capital, which is leading the way in environmentally friendly urban living and which can thus act as a role-model to inspire other cities. Cities differ enormously and sharing concrete examples of what a European Green Capital can look like is essential if further progress is to be made.
The Commission proposed a new programme, the 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP), which sets out a strategic agenda for environmental policy-making with 9 priority objectives to be achieved by 2020. It helps to establish a common understanding of the main environmental challenges Europe faces and what needs to be done to tackle them effectively. This programme underpins the European Green Capital Award in relation to policies for sustainable urban planning and design.
Protecting and enhancing natural capital, encouraging more resource efficiency and accelerating the transition to the low-carbon economy are key features of the programme, which also seeks to tackle new and emerging environmental risks and to help safe guard health and welfare of EU citizens. The results should help stimulate sustainable growth and create new jobs to set the European Union on a path to becoming a better and healthier place to live.
Cities play a crucial role as engines of the economy, as places of connectivity, creativity and innovation, and as centres of services for their surrounding areas. Due to their density, cities offer a huge potential for energy savings and a move towards a carbon-neutral economy.
Most cities face a common core set of environmental problems and risks, including poor air quality, high levels of noise, GHG emissions, water scarcity, contaminated sites, brownfields and waste. At the same time, EU cities are standard setters in urban sustainability and often pioneer innovative solutions to environmental challenges. An ever-growing number of European cities are putting environmental sustainability at the core of their urban development strategies.
Thus, in order to enhance the sustainability of EU cities, the 7th EAP fixes the goals that by 2020 a majority of cities in the EU are implementing policies for sustainable urban planning and design.
For further information on the proposed 7th EAP, please visit the DG Environment website here.
Sustainable development is a fundamental principle shared by the European Union, member states and local authorities. It promotes the continuous improvement in the quality of life and wellbeing of present and future generations. Promoting sustainable urban development is a key element of the European Cohesion Policy and a continuous process.
In 2007 the European Ministers responsible for urban development signed the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities. With this charter, the 27 member states have, for the first time, outlined an ideal model for the European Sustainable City and laid the foundations for an integrated urban policy. In 2008 in Marseille (France) the Ministers decided to have a tool created that would translate into practice the common sustainability goals and the Leipzig Charter objectives. This tool is the Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities (RFSC). The RFSC will support European cities and municipalities in their work on integrated and sustainable urban development. The RFSC aims to provide a common framework for sustainable urban development, promoting the benefits of integrated urban development policy approaches. The tool will allow for communication within and between cities on the basis of a common format that can also be adapted to the cities’ individual needs. It encourages the dialogue and exchange within and beyond the cities of Europe on sustainable urban development policies.
Signed-up cities can use the RFSC to develop and improve current strategies and projects and to learn from other European cities. The tool can be used by politicians, planners, project managers, stakeholders as well as citizens. It is built around the four key pillars of sustainability ‘Economy, Social, Environment and Governance’ and covers a wide-range of topics including housing, green space, transport to youth unemployment. To make the most of the benefits offered by the RFSC, cities and municipalities can also apply for the RFSC City or Ambassador City status.
For more information on the RFSC please follow the link to their website www.rfsc.eu
Roadmap for a resource-efficient Europe
The European Commission have set out a roadmap aimed at transforming Europe’s economy into a sustainable one by 2050 and help achieve a resource-efficient Europe which is essential for our future wellbeing and prosperity. More information on the Roadmap for a resource-efficient Europe can be found through the Commission website here.
Recognising this important role of cities, the Commission committed itself to act in this area through the Sixth Environmental Action Programme issued in 2002. Later followed the Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment which aims to promote a more integrated approach to urban management and support cities in their efforts to this end. A dedicated area on the Commission’s website provides more guidance and information about integrated environmental management.
Urban areas play an important role in delivering the objectives of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. Updated information about the strategy is available on European portal on sustainable development including citizens guides, progress reports and examples of action taken by others, etc.
Providing information and examples of existing solutions to municipalities and local authorities is essential, since it allows them to learn from each other and develop plans adapted to their specific situation.
Click here to view and download examples of technical assessment documents, best practice reports and further European Green Capital Award publications.
The European Green Capital scheme does not include any pool of funds to support initiatives of participating cities. But it may be relevant for local authorities to explore other funding opportunities at the EU level. For details see the overview of funding opportunities on the Commission’s website.
Furthermore, funding opportunities will exist for cities under the ‘societal challenges’ part of Horizon 2020 – The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) The Specific Programme will consist of the following parts: