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EU Policy on the Urban Environment - Overview

UrbanThe European Commission has, in recent years, been increasing its focus on urban issues, as a response to the fact that by 2020 it is estimated that almost 80% of EU citizens will be living in cities. The political importance of the issue is demonstrated by its inclusion in the 7th Environmental Action Programme (7EAP) under Priority Objective 8, entitled, Sustainable Cities: "Working together for Common Solutions". The overall objective of this policy drive is to enhance the sustainability of EU cities to achieve by 2050 that all Europeans are "living well, within the limits of the planet".

Specifically the Action Programme states that by 2020: "…a majority of cities in the Union are implementing policies for sustainable urban planning and design…" and that the Commission should develop: "…a set of criteria to assess the environmental performance of cities, taking into account economic, social and territorial impacts".

The European Commission Environment Directorate General (DG Environment) is working on improving the urban environment in a number of ways:

  • Through the EU's general environmental legislation, working to ensure that European citizen's enjoy cities with clean air and water, avoiding exposure to excessive noise and cities that deal properly with waste, and that protect their nature and biodiversity, and promote better green infrastructure – and many more. For more information click on the 'Policies' tab at the top of the page.
  • Through the European Green Capital  and the European Green Leaf initiatives, which allow cities to showcase their environmental performance.
  • Through the development of a new tool that will allow cities to benchmark their environmental performance, assessing progress in comparison with other similar cities, sharing best practices and experience and tracking improvement over time.

There are a number of other closely related urban environmental activities going on across other Directorates General of the Commission that cities might find useful. For a detailed overview of all Commission policies relating to cities, including details of structural and research funding, see this one-stop web portal on urban issues (look under the section on 'Green cities' for an overview of all urban environment related policies).