Organised jointly by two European Parliament Intergroups “Urban” and “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development,” the event “Natural Solutions for Urban Areas in Europe” held on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Brussels provided an overview of European initiatives aimed at the protection and restoration of biodiversity and natural ecosystems and services in urban areas.
With the majority of the European population living in cities, the quality of urban environments is becoming a very crucial issue. Opening the conference, MEP Jan Olbrycht stated: “The new principle of sustainable urban development has been introduced in the EU cohesion policy’s new regulations. Now, we need to translate this concept of sustainability into concrete actions.”
“Green infrastructure is a strategically planned and delivered network of high quality green spaces in urban, peri‐urban and rural areas,” said Marco Fritz from the European Commission, Nature and Biodiversity Unit at Directorate-General for the Environment. Mr. Fritz highlighted the benefits that a better urban environment can have on population from the social, economic and health point of view.
Representing the URBES project, Dr. Dagmar Haase stressed the importance of assessing the value of biodiversity and ecosystems in and for cities in order to be able to make comparisons of benefits across European cities and provide a strong knowledge‐base for administrations' planning.
Other important contributions were made by Ms. Maria Mele of the Regional Government of Tuscany (Italy), Mr. Lawrence Jones‐Walters of the European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC), and Ms. Linde Vertriest of the company Arcadis.
On best practices of European cities, Serge Kempeneers of Bruxelles Environment‐IBGE presented a number of initiatives that have been implemented in the City of Brussels (Belgium) to improve urban natural conditions. On behalf of the Municipality of Vitoria‐Gasteiz (Spain), “European Green Capital 2012”, Luis Andrés Orive presented the work done in city which allowed it to win the 2012 award.
Following the presentations, the debate brought a fruitful exchange of views and interventions, notably by Ms. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environmental Agency who argued that decoupling between economic growth and land take is still missing in Europe: “We are not using land around cities efficiently: the greening of cities has to become even more attractive because we cannot afford to continue losing the amount of soil we are currently losing in the face of food security issues, floods, climate adaptation, etc.”
MEP Cristina Gutierrez‐Cortines underlined that the European Parliament strives to work together with the European Commission and the European Environmental Agency to amend, review and enlarge Agenda 21 to become a roadmap and guide for all the mayors in Europe.
To conclude the meeting, MEP Vittorio Prodi stressed the importance of continuing discussions on the need to develop urban biodiversity initiatives because of the deteriorating situation of urban environments. “We have to organise territorial care to keep water as long as possible where it falls because the changes in rainfall patterns due to climate change have disastrous consequences on our territories,” he held. "This organisation has to begin in our cities, which can then lead communities to make these changes."
More information can be found here.