European Green Week Adopts Urban Agenda, Agrees to Accelerate Transition to Low-Carbon Economy

 

The 2016 edition of Green Week focused on the theme ‘investing for a greener future.’ Participants discussed how to promote the role of green investments in achieving sustainable development and agreed on a range of measures to advance the European Union (EU) Urban Agenda, the blue economy and the transition to a low-carbon future, among other areas.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner on Environment (photo: Green Week 2015)

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner on Environment (photo: Green Week)

Activities and events took place throughout Europe during Green Week, an annual occasion to discuss European environment policy that ran from 30 May to 3 June. Each day of the week focused on different aspects of the overall theme: investing in greener cities (Monday); investing in the countryside (Tuesday); investing in our needs (Wednesday); investing in our oceans (Thursday); and investing for future generations (Friday).

Twenty-eight ministers responsible for urban matters agreed on principles of the EU Urban Agenda at the European Commission (EC) Ministerial Meeting on Urban Issues, with a focus on ‘Better Regulation, Better Funding and Better Knowledge.’ The ‘Pact of Amsterdam’ endorses the development of 12 partnerships to address urban challenges related to inclusion of migrants and refugees, air quality, urban poverty, housing, circular economy, jobs and skills in the local economy, climate adaptation, energy transition, sustainable use of land and nature-based solutions, urban mobility, digital transition, and innovative and responsible public procurement.

According to the EC, the EU Urban Agenda is expected to contribute to the implementation of the SDGs, particularly SDG 11 (Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), and to the Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (Habitat III) process on the global ‘New Urban Agenda.’ The Urban Agenda is also expected to help advance action on renewable energy and energy efficiency, including on SDG 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all).

A high-level event in Brussels, Belgium, discussed how to improve access to finance for European companies in green sectors, with the aim of accelerating a transition to a low-carbon, circular economy. European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said, “business culture has to shift towards sustainability, from the tiniest of SMEs, all the way up to fund managers. For the transition to happen we need to give incentives and shift towards a financial system that considers environmental impacts when making decisions.” Participants discussed the role of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in mobilizing finance for green projects and highlighted the role of entrepreneurs in the reuse and recycling of products and finding new revenue streams, among other topics. The event resulted in a Communication with concrete proposals for the future of the EFSI, such as scaling up resources for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and exploring the use of an EFSI-type model for investments in developing countries.

CEOs participating in the ‘Retail Forum for Sustainability,’ a multi-stakeholder platform to exchange best practices on sustainability, released a ‘Commitment to the Circular Economy.’ The Retailers’ Environmental Action Programme (REAP) commits signatories to over 100 actions to transform the retail sector, including on increased energy efficiency; food waste; product design, certification and labeling; and sustainable sourcing. Individual commitments are compiled in an online database that will be monitored and reported on over the next three years.

Events on the blue economy addressed the importance of healthy oceans for a healthy economy and of tackling marine litter on land through a circular economy action plan that recommends production processes that decrease plastic waste and increase plastic reuse. The day’s events featured examples on sustainable fishing, sustainable tourism and renewable energy, among others. An event in Greece encouraged the public to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle while an event in France focused on marine renewable energy.

Green Week concluded with an event titled ‘SDGs for a Green Future: Investing for Future Generations,’ which convened on 3 June in Vienna, Austria. Participants discussed how implementing the 2030 Agenda can place Europe on a low-carbon, circular economy path. Austrian Minister of the Environment Andrä Rupprechter and Vella stressed the importance of a longer-term perspective in the 2030 Agenda. Vella explained, “2030 is the day after tomorrow, if not already tomorrow.”

 


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