Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Jean-Dominique Billaud

Ireland, the 2013 host of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Kicks off the year with a bang, beginning the “Year of Citizens”in Europe.

9th January, 2012

Ireland celebrated the beginning of its 2013 Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) with a ceremony at Dublin Castle on New Year’s Eve. The ceremony was attended by An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, the Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore, Cabinet ministers, MEPs, the Lord Mayor of Dublin as well as politicians, a host of dignitaries and over 200 members of the public. Ireland is experienced in undertaking this role as this is the seventh time the country has taken over the presidency, having last presided in 2004.

The New Year’s Eve ceremony also celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the EU and the start of the ‘Year of Citizens’ in Europe (EYC2013). 40 blue balloons were held by school children, symbolizing Ireland’s 40 years as part of the EU. Biodegradable balloons with extra long strings were used. The children could therefore hold onto the balloons, preventing them from floating away and becoming a threat to animals, birds and sea creatures that may ingest the plastic, causing them harm. The EU and Irish flags were raised to fly over Dublin Castle while the EU’s anthem, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, was played by the Defence Forces Band.

School children hold 40 biodegradable blue balloons to celebrate Ireland’s 40 year membership of the EU. Courtesy of the Irish Times

School children hold 40 biodegradable blue balloons to celebrate Ireland’s 40 year membership of the EU. Courtesy of the Irish Times

The Year of Citizens in Europe is celebrated in 2013 to recognise the importance of citizens to their city. Cities are shaped around the needs of their citizens and citizens make decisions every day that affect the city’s environment. The European Green Capital Award has always placed a strong focus on engagement of citizens. The overall aim of this public engagement is to provoke change. New concepts will only be successful if they are accepted into the everyday lives of citizens. It is therefore essential that every green city captures the imagination and interest of its citizens. Working with the people whose daily life they are trying to improve allows decision makers to achieve the best possible policies for their city. Therefore, as citizens, you have a powerful responsibility to make the best decisions for your city to help it become a European Green Capital.

However it is also the responsibility of each citizen to inspire their community to action through example. Citizenship means maintaining your local area and working together to improve it and make it sustainable and green. Through sharing information or actively participating in awareness campaigns you can make informed decisions and form an opinion on how your city could work towards being the next European Green Capital. By giving yourself and your community a voice you can work with you local authority to achieve green goals. Let the Green Capitals be your muse and aspire to make your city as green as them.

The citizens and local authorities of Dublin, Ireland are showing their high level of commitment to genuine progress in green growth and sustainability as an applicant for the 2015 European Green Capital Award. Applicant cities are evaluated on the basis of 12 environmental indicators. Then each of the cities shortlisted for the 2015 award presents their vision, action plan and communication strategy to the Jury. The winning city will be announced in Nantes EGC 2013, in June this year.

For more information on the European Year of Citizens visit http://europa.eu/citizens-2013/en/home

For more information about the European Green Capital Award click here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/europeangreencapital/index_en.html

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